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Bowel screening just do it!

A Devonport woman says she has ‘dodged a bullet’ after finding out she had cancer through taking part in the Waitemata District Health Board’s free bowel screening programme. Nicki Sumicz is now making it her mission to spread the message to family, friends and anyone else eligible to take part.

The fit and healthy 52-year-old accountant and business owner is the mother of two teenage boys. She says when her bowel screening test kit arrived she left it sitting on the bench for a few weeks as bowel cancer was not something she had ever contemplated. 

“We have no family history and I had no symptoms at all. When my doctor phoned and said the result was positive because there were traces of blood in the sample I was not worried at all,” she says.
However during a colonoscopy her surgeon discovered polyps and two cancers. Within three weeks she had been operated on and had 35 centimetres of her bowel removed.
“Luckily, because the cancer was found so early it hadn’t spread, so I didn’t need any chemotherapy. Bowel cancer is not a ‘sexy cancer’ so no-one talks about it. But if it is found early, like in my case, it can be cured.”
Nicki Sumicz says she is an advocate for bowel screening and has encouraged all her family and friends to do the test. Now she wants to spread the message further.
“My message to everyone lucky enough to live in the Waitemata DHB area is just do it! The test is clean and you don’t have to touch anything. In my situation it quite possibly saved my life as my bowel cancer was found before it had the chance to spread,” she says.
The four year Bowel Screening programme is now in its third year. Results will be used to decide if bowel screening could be rolled out nationally. Ministry of Health results for the first 21 months (from January 2012 to September 2013) show bowel cancer was found in 129 people who completed a test kit. The programme’s clinical director Mr Mike Hulme-Moir says more than 90% of patients are cured if bowel cancer is found early.
“The great news is that the bowel screening programme is finding cancers at an early stage when they are just beginning to grow, and before they have had the chance to spread,” he says.
“Approximately 60% of the cancers we are seeing through the Bowel Screening programme are stage 1 and 2, 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 is not only saving lives, it is costing the country less for treatment.”
Bowel cancer can be present with few or even no warning signs or symptoms. Symptoms may include blood in your bowel motion or changes in your normal pattern of going to the toilet that continue for several weeks, for example: diarrhoea, constipation or a feeling like your bowel doesn’t empty completely. Anyone with those symptoms is urged to see their doctor now.
If you are aged between 50 and 74 years and live in the Waitemata DHB area you should have been invited to check yourself out with the free Bowel Screening programme. If you have not received an invitation, or have moved house, please phone 0800 924 432 or email

by Channel Editorial