New calls for bowel cancer screening as many diagnosed too late

A new study reveals too many New Zealanders are finding out they have incurable bowel cancer too late. 

New research reveals a third of patients have no idea they have the disease until they turn up unwell to a hospital. Source: 1 NEWS

What's more, a third of patients are not being diagnosed until they turn up at a hospital emergency department riddled with disease.

The PIPER project, funded by the Health Ministry and Health Research Council, studied 5500 patient files in 2007/08. 

It found that 30 per cent of bowel cancer patients first learned they had the disease when they arrived at a hospital emergency department. 

Lead researcher Professor Michael Findlay says "this is of significant concern because when patients present to the emergency department the disease is more advanced".

We're letting 1200 people die each year - Sarah Derrett

The study found New Zealand has a higher proportion of patients diagnosed with stage four or incurable bowel cancer than other countries at 24 per cent as opposed to 19 per cent for Australia and 17 per cent for the UK, both of which have national bowel cancer screening programmes. 

Bowel Cancer New Zealand's Sarah Derrett, also one of the PIPER researchers, says this study renews repeated calls for the Government to speed up nationwide bowel cancer screening here and extend the four-year Waitemata Pilot to test all older New Zealanders.

"Currently we're letting 1200 people die each year from this cancer and we still have no decision, we still have no action," Ms Derrett says.  

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says it is a priority and that he is taking a business case to Cabinet later this year to look at what would be required to roll out nationwide screening.

But he says, "we need to be able to do the numbers of colonoscopies before we can roll it out, but we're building up to that". 

This is just ridiculously ironic - Katherine Lawrenson

The study findings are tragically poignant for one of the PIPER researchers, Professor Ross Lawrenson. 

His own daughter, 35-year-old Cromwell mother-of-three Katherine Lawrenson, was rushed to Auckland Hospital's emergency department with stomach pains while in the city on holiday. 

After a CT scan doctors informed her she had bowel cancer.

"I'd had a little boy eight weeks earlier, my third son, so to get that news was devastating" she says.

Cancer cell. Source: BBC

Later tests by her Dunedin Hospital oncologist confirmed her cancer was at stage four and had spread beyond the bowel to her lymph glands and blood.

"He pretty much said there was no cure for the stage I was at and all we can really do at the moment is keep bombarding it with chemo and hopefully prolong my life for as long as we can," Ms Lawrenson says.

The fact her own father was involved in a study which revealed late diagnosis of bowel cancer was poignant. 

"This is just ridiculously ironic that my father is so particularly involved in this study and this is exactly what's happening to me right now," she says.

Katherine Lawrenson, whose father is researching bowel cancer, is battling the disease herself. Source: 1 NEWS

The PIPER study also reveals only 60 per cent of stage four bowel cancer patients are having chemotherapy in New Zealand. 

Professor Michael Findlay says this may be because some are too elderly or ill with other health issues to tolerate treatment, or fearful of chemo's side effects. 

He says survival rates for stage three bowel cancer after chemo are now two years on average and sometimes even longer. 

"There is now a group that are coming to our clinic who are still alive five years down the track after an apparently incurable diagnosis," he says.  

Givealittle page for Ms Lawrenson has raised close to $30,000 to dates.

New Zealand retains triple A credit rating

The credit agency Moody's has today maintained the government's credit rating and expressed confidence about the future of the economy.

The rating remains at triple A, with the outlook described as stable.

Moody's analyst Matthew Circosta said the international ratings agency expects the coalition government will remain committed to fiscal discipline, with the Budget staying in surplus.

But it says the government has the flexibility to increase spending in areas such as education and housing.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the rating was very pleasing.

"What they've said is that the underlying fundamentals of the New Zealand economy are strong, that the approach that the coalition government's taking to being responsible with our budget management.

"But investing in areas like infrastructure and improving social supports are the right thing to do, that we can manage to do that within the finances we've got."

Moody's said the very high strength of New Zealand's institutions was a key factor in underpinning the credit rating.

The assessment comes just days after official figures showed growth in the economy increasing to 1 per cent in the three months to June.

Shot of New Zealand twenty dollars.
New Zealand $20 notes (file picture). Source:


American tourist dies in skiing accident on Mt Aspiring

An American tourist has died while skiiing on Mt Aspiring this afternoon.

Police say the skiing accident at Mt Aspiring happened at about 1.30pm today.

Two visitors to New Zealand were skiing from the top of Mt Aspiring, downhill toward the Bonar Glacier.

One of the skiers got into difficulty, has fallen on the slope and was fatally injured.

The other skier gave first aid to the injured man, but he unfortunately died at the scene.

The Rescue Coordination Centre were advised of the beacon activation just after 1.30pm today.

Police and Search and Rescue teams have been working to locate the skiers this afternoon.

Emergency services are now at the scene and an investigation is underway.

The victim is a 35-year-old American citizen.

Police are currently in the process of talking to his next of kin.

Mount Aspiring towers over the southern alps in New Zealand. Source:


Man charged with multiple assaults in Invercargill

A 24-year-old man has been arrested in relation to several assaults in Invercargill today.

The man, who has been remanded in custody, is due to appear in Invercargill District Court on Tuesday 2 October.

The man has been charged with wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and assault. Further charges are likely.

Between 1.30 and 2.30am today, the man allegedly assaulted four people at two different properties.

A 17 and 23-year-old man, and a 26-year-old woman sustained minor injuries from the incident at the first property, while a 30-year-old man sustained serious facial injuries at the second location.

Police are not looking for anyone else in relation to either incident.

Police car generic.
Police car generic. Source: 1 NEWS

First images of wreck believed to be Captain Cook's Endeavour revealed

Researchers exploring whether a shipwreck off the coast of Rhode Island could be the vessel that 18th-century explorer Captain James Cook used to sail around the world have released images of the vessel.

The Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project, which is leading the search effort, and the Australian National Maritime Museum identified the vessel.

It's one of 13 shipwrecks that have been known for years to be in the harbor near Newport, Rhode Island.

Archaeologists were meeting today in Newport to talk about their recent fieldwork.

The Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project also described the site as promising but said it'll still take a lot more work and money to identify it.

Nearly 250 years ago, Cook ran aground on Australia's Great Barrier Reef during a voyage to the South Pacific.

His ship was the Endeavour, an awkward little vessel that improbably helped him become the first European to chart Australia's east coast.

It was the ship in which the explorer charted New Zealand and Australia between 1769 and 1771.

The Endeavour was also part of the fleet of 13 ships the British scuttled during the Revolutionary War in 1778 to blockade Newport Harbor from the French.

It was listed in the records under a different name, the Lord Sandwich.

The nonprofit Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project located documents in London identifying the groups of ships in that fleet and where each was scuttled

Archaeologists are almost certain they've located the scuttled ship. Source: 1 NEWS