Scott McWilliams is passionate about raising awareness of how easy bowel screening kits are to use and how much of a difference they can make. As a cancer survivor, he places extra value on a test that can help detect and prevent bowel cancer.

“My message to people sitting on the fence about taking the bowel screening test is to just do it. The test is easy and hassle free. It’s not just about finding out if you have cancer, it’s about finding potential cancers early and removing them before they have a chance to grow.”

The bowel screening test is an iFOB (immunochemical faecal occult blood) test. It can detect tiny traces of blood in your bowel motion that can’t be seen by the naked eye. This may be an early warning that something is wrong with your bowel. If there is blood in your bowel motion it doesn’t mean you have bowel cancer, but you will need further investigation to find the cause of the blood.

Scott has recently done his third bowel screening test which tested positive, after both his other previous results two and four years ago were negative.

“If blood is found in your sample, it’s called a ‘positive result’. So I, like more than 8,000 other people who have done the test as part of Waitemata DHB’s bowel screening pilot, was referred for a diagnostic colonoscopy at Waitakere Hospital. There was no cancer but I had quite a few polyps removed and still nothing to worry about. Polyps can develop into cancer over time, so the bowel screening test is preventing cancer as well as finding it.”

New Zealand will start rolling out bowel screening nationally next year after the success of Waitemata DHB’s pilot. So far more than 316 people who have taken part have been found to have cancer.

Clinical Director, Mike Hulme-Moir, says the great news is that bowel screening is finding cancers at an early stage when they are just beginning to grow, and before they have had the chance to spread.

“Approximately 70% of the cancers we are seeing through the bowel screening programme are early stage, which means a much higher chance of being cured by surgery alone. The patient doesn’t need chemotherapy which is a huge benefit. Bowel screening not only saves lives, it costs the country less for treatment.”

If you live in the Waitemata DHB area, are aged between 50 and 74 years and are eligible for publically funded health care you may be able to do the free bowel screening test. If you have not received an invitation, or you have moved house, please let them know by phoning 0800 924 432, text YES to 3022 or visit See your doctor now if you have any bowel symptoms that concern you.


Published courtesy of Waitemata DHB and Scott McWilliams