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Southern DHB National Bowel Screening Programme

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    Southern DHB saving lives through bowel screening

    The aim of the National Bowel Screening Programme is to save lives by finding pre-cancerous polyps or bowel cancer at an early stage when they can often be successfully treated.

    The National Bowel Screening Programme is an invitation-based screening programme. You have the choice to opt out of bowel screening if you wish.

    To be invited to participate in the bowel screening programme, you must:

    • be aged 60 to 74 years
    • be eligible for publicly-funded health care
    • not be receiving treatment or surveillance for bowel cancer.

    If you’re eligible, you will receive an invitation letter, a consent form and a free bowel screening test kit through the mail. The test kit is easy, quick and clean to complete at home, and is returned directly to the laboratory by freepost.

    If you have any concerns about your bowel health at any age, you should contact your GP right away.

    Find out more about bowel screening.



    This is a procedure which allows the doctor to see inside your large bowel and examine the surfaces directly and take biopsies (samples of tissue) if needed.  Treatment of conditions can also be undertaken.   What to expect The colonoscope is a flexible plastic-coated tube a little thicker than a ballpoint pen which has a tiny camera attached that sends images to a viewing screen. You will be given a sedative (medicine that will make you sleepy but is not a general anaesthetic). The tube is passed into the rectum (bottom) and gently moved along the large bowel.  The procedure takes from 10 minutes to 1 hour and your oxygen levels and heart rhythm are monitored throughout. The procedure is performed in a day stay operating theatre.    Before the procedure You will need to follow a special diet and take some laxatives (medicine to make you go to the toilet) over the days leading up to the test.   Risks of a colonoscopy are rare but include:      bleeding if a biopsy is performed           allergic reaction to the sedative perforation (tearing) of the bowel wall.