Surgeons and hospitals across Christchurch are joining forces to provide free clinics to diagnose bowel cancer in young people.
The collaboration has been triggered by new research that shows an alarming increase in the number of New Zealanders under 50 diagnosed with the cancer that kills 1200 Kiwis a year.
The new study shows that 10 per cent of all bowel cancer patients are now under the age of 50 and it is more common in young men.
The Christchurch Charity Hospital and St George's Hospital are providing theatre time and joining forces with a dozen surgeons to help diagnose bowel cancer in patients under 50.
"Bowel cancer is often thought of as an old persons disease. And it often is an old persons disease. But what's changing is the increasing incidence of bowel cancer amongst young," said Professor Frank Frizell, a colorectal surgeon.
Professor Phil Bagshaw of the charity hospital said: "I think it has been a big mistake to say that people under 50 don't get cancers like this. They do and they should be investigated."
The free screening started this week with eight young patients getting a diagnostic test called a sigmoidoscopy.
Katherine Anderson is a bowel cancer survivor who says she was diagnosed quite late. That was partly because she was pregnant, partly because she was in her thirties and deemed too young to have bowel cancer.
She welcomes the news of the free diagnostic clinics.
"I think it's brilliant. It's good that there's some doctors and specialists that have shown some initiative and seen that there's a gap that needs to be filled and these people do desperately need this treatment done," Ms Anderson said.
At this stage, there are enough volunteers to run the clinic until the end of the year.