Loss prompts screening call

Debbie Williamson, of Dunedin, holds a picture of her late husband, Brendon Garden, who died from...
Debbie Williamson, of Dunedin, holds a picture of her late husband, Brendon Garden, who died from bowel cancer nearly a year ago. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
A Dunedin widow whose husband's bowel cancer was detected too late to cure wants the Government to commit to a national screening programme.

Debbie Williamson said she was angry her husband, Brendon Garden, had died from a disease which could have been cured if it had been detected earlier.

''I don't want other people going through what I've been through. It's really heartbreaking to watch someone you love deteriorate like that - especially when you're thinking it could have been prevented.''

Her husband was diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer in July 2011 and died on November 19 last year.

A week from the first anniversary of his death, Ms Williamson wanted to focus attention on her husband's message - the importance of getting checked.

Mr Garden talked to the ODT five months before his death and spoke of the devastation of being told the cancer was incurable.

''If they catch it early enough, it can be cured ... but with me the horse has bolted,'' he said in the interview.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said there was a need for a national bowel screening programme, and in October 2011 the Government launched a $24 million bowel cancer screening pilot at the Waitemata District Health Board.

''A national roll-out is inevitable but it must be a high-quality service - and there is a need to address workforce constraints and explore use of alternate technologies.''

A big constraint to a national roll-out was having the workforce to do the necessary colonoscopies so measures, such as specialist nurses training to perform colonoscopies, would help address the workforce constraints, Dr Coleman said.

Labour health spokeswoman Annette King said the Waitemata pilot programme proved how successful early diagnosis could be and the Government needed to commit to a national programme.

If the programme was rolled out in stages, the Government could meet the workforce constraints.

''You go to the areas where you have the highest death and incident rate - which is the Southern DHB region. There is no need to wait.''

Beat Bowel Cancer Aotearoa chairwoman Mary Bradley said the wait for national bowel cancer screening was unacceptable.

''How many New Zealanders have to die before this Government implements a national screening programme? Enough is enough. The Government needs to stop playing Russian roulette with people's lives and do something to immediately reduce the more than 100 lives being lost every month to bowel cancer.''


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