Kits help cancer awareness

Having bowel cancer screening kits for sale in pharmacies has helped raise the profile of the cancer, Pharmacy Brands business development manager Alison Van Wyk says.

There were 1100 kits in pharmacies around the country, but it was too early to say how many had been purchased since they were launched two months ago.

The launch caused some controversy. Among concerns were how well informed kit purchasers would be, and whether there could be confusion with national screening programmes which are free, have established standards and strict monitoring.

Ms Van Wyk said being able to discuss the kits, promoted by charity Beat Bowel Cancer Aotearoa and Pharmacy Brands, was helping to reduce the stigma about talking about bowel cancer and many customers were hungry for more information.

"It's not just about selling the kit, but about ensuring they get all the information they need."

Pharmacists were keen to see people got the correct advice and that those people with possible bowel cancer symptoms went to their general practitioner rather than complete one of the test kits.

The kit, which people can use at home, involve an immuno-chemical test for blood in faeces which can be the result of a bowel cancer or a pre-cancerous growth. However, other conditions can also result in faecal blood.

Ms Van Wyk said the test had a false negative rate of about 12 %.

It was important that people did not regard a negative result as reassurance they did not have the disease and ignore possible symptoms.

These included rectal bleeding, a persistent change in bowel habits, general stomach discomfort, unexplained weight loss and lumps in the abdomen.

The kits are not sold without the buyer agreeing their GP can be informed of the result.

Some pharmacists had chosen not to stock the kits, but most had been very receptive to the idea.

• The provider of the kits for the Government's four-year pilot programme for 135,000 people aged between 50 and 74 in the Waitemata District Health Board area is expected to be announced at the end of this month.

The tendering process began in January for the immunochemical fecal occult blood test iFOBT) kits and was to have been completed by the end of May. The programme, which will involve two rounds of testing, is expected to begin in October.

Bowel cancer is the second highest cause of cancer deaths in New Zealand after lung cancer, killing about 1200 people each year.



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