Scientific evidence supporting the merits of bowel screening
is stronger than that for breast or prostate screening,
Dunedin oncologist Christopher Jackson says.
Dr Jackson, who is also a senior lecturer at the Dunedin
School of Medicine, contacted the Otago Daily Times about the
disagreement between the Labour and Green parties aired last
week over Labour's proposed bowel screening programme.
Dr Jackson believed there was no point waiting for the
conclusion of the four-year pilot scheme in Waitemata.
''Screening for bowel cancer reduces death rates in those
screened. The scientific evidence supporting bowel cancer
screening is in my view stronger than the evidence supporting
screening in breast, lung or prostate cancer.''
Overcoming the personnel shortage for performing
colonoscopies was the big challenge of establishing a
screening programme - but the pilot did nothing to address
that, Dr Jackson said.
Launching the programme region by region would lead the
''Workforce capacity is the issue that is going to determine
the success of a national screening programme, and a national
screening could not happen without growth in that
Screening reduced both the rate of cancer development and
deaths from the disease.
''It's highly successful internationally, and given that
we've got one of the world's worst rates of bowel cancer, it
is the right thing for us to do, and we need to develop the
capacity to achieve that.''
The Government wants to wait until its four-year screening
pilot concludes at the end of 2015 before deciding whether to
launch it nationally.
The Green Party's health spokesman Kevin Hague agrees with
that approach, and has criticised Labour's promise to launch
a national screening programme if elected in September.