April 22, 2024

URGENT PSA! 📢 It has come to our attention that a media article over the weekend has created some confusion around the government-run bowel screening tests. We want to clarify the concerns raised about ’spoilt’ samples being discarded.

Bowel Cancer NZ’s nurse Victoria says, “With around 230,000 test samples being returned annually for analysis, a percentage of these are being discarded due to a variety of reasons such as no consent form being included or broken sample tubes. Another reason for samples not being able to be tested is what is called a ‘spoil rate.’ This is generally when the sample has taken too long to get to the lab for testing.”

This ‘spoil rate’ of around 1 to 2% has remained STEADY since the Bowel Screening Programme first began. Te Whatu Ora confirms this is in line with international standards.

Don’t worry if your sample is spoiled. A new test pack will be sent out asking you to repeat the test. It is vital that you follow the instructions from the Bowel Screening Programme and do so without delay if this happens.

Advice within the FIT kit and on the Time to Screen website include:

– “Do the test as soon as possible. You need to return your test kit within six months of receiving it or the laboratory won’t be able to process it. The laboratory can’t process tests which have passed their expiry date.

– Keep the sample in a cool place until you post it. It does not need to be kept in the fridge. To prevent any postal delays, it’s best not to send it on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday.”

While mail collection can be more intermittent than it has been in the past, and there can be delays in mail getting to the intended recipient—even more so for those who live rurally—it is still vital that samples are sent as per the instructions. If any documentation is missing or no pre-paid envelope is included, please contact Time to Screen immediately at 0800 924432 to ask for these to be sent.

Bowel Cancer NZ recognises the limitations and barriers of the sole use of a postage system for the FIT Kits as this can delay access.

However, Screening saves lives. It is vital that you complete your FIT Kit and return it in a timely manner.

“It is a valuable way to help not just the diagnosis of bowel cancer. But also preventing it.” – Victoria, Bowel Cancer NZ Nurse