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Take the bowel screening test: It could save your life

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Don’t be laid back about bowel screening: Clinical Lead of Gastroenterology Malcolm Arnold and his friendly team, including specialist clinical nurse bowel services (left) and endoscopy nurse Kerrin Bennett, are strongly encouraging people to take part in the free bowel screening programme for 60 to 74 year olds: "It could save your life."

The new gastroenterology unit at Hawke’s Bay Fallen Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital is getting the thumbs up from patients.

The staff are also getting high praise, with one man giving them a nine out of 10, with that last point missing only because: "I never give 10s".

The unit was opened in October last year, just in time for the Hawke’s Bay rollout of the National Bowel Screening Programme for people aged 60 to 74. More than 7000 Hawke’s Bay people in the eligible group had been sent their free test. About 70 per cent of them had taken up the offer, with more than 100 needing pre-cancerous polyps removed and another eight being treated for bowel cancer.

Based on those figures, of the 2000 who had not taken the test it could be expected that 70 of them may need to have polyps removed and between four and seven could be expected to have bowel cancer, said Hawke’s Bay District Health Board Clinical Lead of Gastroenterology, Dr Malcolm Arnold.

Hawke’s Bay’s rollout will continue over the next 18 months, until everyone in the age group had received their kit. It is hoped that the percentage of uptake will grow to nearer 100 percent.

To help convince people to take the test, some patients who have received treatment in the wake of the test, have agreed to share their stories.

Some have said the test sat on the bench or table "looking at them" until they decided to "get it over with". They all said that the process to take the test was not difficult.

And the ensuing treatment at the new gastroenterology unit has received high praise.

Havelock North woman Margaret Thomas is a very keen advocate of the test, making a concerted effort to get all of her friends to take advantage of the free offer.

She had nine polyps removed. "I hadn’t been feeling too well, but they were things I put down to other health issues."

She said it was easy. "The worst thing was the drink you have to have if you need to have surgery, but taking the test was very easy."

Mrs Thomas also gave the unit the thumbs up. "The nurses were lovely; the unit is nice and quiet and peaceful, and they gave me sandwiches and a cup of tea afterwards, which was great as you can’t eat for such a long time before it, and I was starving."

Hastings resident Patrick Hall was another one who had been around his friends and family, telling them that if they got the opportunity they should take the test.

"I’ve had a pretty healthy life and I plan to go on a lot longer yet - so getting the opportunity to take the test was great. I highly recommend it."

He also praised the unit and the staff. "They made me very comfortable and explained everything. My situation went very well and I’m very happy with the outcome. It’s excellent."

A Hastings man, who did not want to be named, said the service "was really very good".

"I got in there at 8.30am, three staff talked me through different things [about the process], and I was home by about 1pm. They fed me, and the food wasn’t bad either."

Dr Arnold said the test kits are being rolled out as quickly as possible, but people with symptoms should not wait to receive one.

"Anyone of any age - not just those in the target group - with symptoms such as bleeding from the bottom or blood in their poo, a change in bowel habits lasting more than six weeks, tummy pain which can be severe, any lumps or mass in your tummy, or weight loss and tiredness, should see their doctor."

People who had received a kits but delayed making a decision on taking the test should check the expiry date. If the kit is past its use-by date, phone the National Bowel Screening Programme help line for a new one: 0800 924 432.

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