Following the launch of BowelScreen Aotearoa™, a number of concerning and inaccurate comments regarding the test kits were reported in the media. 
 
The information below is to correct those inaccuracies and misunderstandings.
 
BowelScreen Aotearoa™ uses the Insure® immunochemical test kit designed and manufactured by Enterix Australia, which is owned by Quest Diagnostics®, the largest pathology laboratory in the United States.
 
Over one million test kits are exported from Australia to the United States annually and Quest Diagnostics® have been using the test kits since 2004. 
 
The test has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) in Australia and is listed on the New Zealand Web Assisted Notification of Devices (NZ WAND).
 
The InSure® test has 98% specificity (a 2% false positive rate) and 87.5% sensitivity for bowel cancer, quite the opposite of claims that the test carries a ‘large degree of false positives and false negatives’.  In fact, detection rates for advanced adenomas and cancer are significantly higher for iFOBT than guaiac faecal occult blood tests (gFOBT).
 
 
The test also has a unique patented sampling method, requires no faecal handling and has inherent sample stability as it uses a dried water sample and no buffer solution.  It is safe and reliable and has had no product recalls since its launch in 2001.
 
The technology used in the InSure® kit is the same technology that the Ministry of Health has called for in its Request for Proposal - supply of immunochemical faecal occult blood test (iFOBT) for the Bowel Screening Pilot for Waitemata District Health Board (WDHB).[1] 
 
The Australian Government’s National Bowel Cancer Screening Program also uses an iFOBT.  The Government’s website states that no screening test is 100% accurate, the FOBT is currently the most well researched screening test for bowel cancer. . . completing a FOBT every two years, can reduce your risk of dying from bowel cancer by up to one third.[2]
 
The MOH National Screening Unit website also states that ‘all screening has the potential to cause harm and screening tests carry a risk of false results’.[3]  These claims however have not outweighed the societal benefit of screening for cancer as governments continue to implement population screening programmes around the world. 
 
BowelScreen Aotearoa™ provides a screening option that has never before existed for New Zealanders.  It aims to help reduce the impact of bowel cancer by improving access to home screening tests.
  
BowelScreen Aotearoa™ promotes iFOBT screening for asymptomatic consumers.  Consumers experiencing symptoms or those with a personal or family history are clearly advised to visit their GP in the first instance.  Claims that the kits could falsely reassure people or cause them to worry unnecessarily are alarmist and only serve to undermine the integrity of any screening, including those that are government funded.
 
BowelScreen Aotearoa™ is supportive of the Bowel Screening Pilot.  It is a start, however wider availability of iFOBT is needed so people who choose to screen for bowel cancer have that option.  Wider availability of a screening test has to be in place if we are to reduce the number of unecessary deaths from this preventable disease. 
 
GPs play a critical role in the BowelScreen Aotearoa™ pathway.  All results, both positive and negative, are sent to the consumer’s GP as well as the consumer.  Tests will not be analysed without the consumer nominating a GP.
 
The InSure® test has been used in Australia to screen asymptomatic patients for over 10 years.  Furthermore, during this time, the test has been prescribed by over 5,000 Australian GPs every year.
 
We welcome the constructive involvement of health professionals with BowelScreen Aotearoa™ as we work towards more informed consumers and better health outcomes for bowel cancer patients. 
 
We are happy to discuss any element of the program and look forward to working together with any organisation interested in reducing the impact of bowel cancer on New Zealanders.
 
 


[1] Ministry of Health, Request for Proposal, Bowel Screening Pilot, 26 July 2010, page 1.
[2]Department of Health & Ageing, National Bowel Cancer Screening Program -  http://www.cancerscreening.gov.au/internet/screening/publishing.nsf/Content/what-is-screening accessed Monday, 11 April 2011.
[3] The National Screening Unit, Ministry of Health, http://www.nsu.govt.nz/about/What-is-Screening.asp accessed Monday, 11 April 2011.
email this page

Bowel Screening Pilot

Please note: Waitemata District Health Board (WDHB) has been selected to run the Ministry for Health's four year bowel screening pilot. 

People aged 50 to 74 years who live in the DHB area will be eligible to take part in the screening programme.

Eligible people will receive a faecal occult blood test (FOBT) in the mail and are encouraged to participate in the Programme Pilot.

For more information about the Ministry for Health's bowel screening pilot, please email bowelcancerteam@moh.govt.nz 

People who are ineligible to participate in the bowel screening pilot can undergo annual screening through BowelScreen Aotearoa™ by visiting their local participating pharmacy.