Bowel Cancer Awareness Month

Posted June 2015
New Zealand has the highest rate of bowel cancer death in the developed world, along with Australia. NZ women have the highest rate of bowel cancer in OECD countries. Bowel cancer is the 2nd most diagnosed cancer in New Zealand, 1200 New Zealanders die each year as a result of bowel cancer, and 3000 people in NZ are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year.
These kinds of statistics support a bowel cancer awareness project and Grace Hospital is supporting the national awareness programme that runs in June throughout New Zealand.

Beat Bowel Cancer Aotearoa is an organisation that promotes education to raise awareness of bowel cancer, and they state that 1 in 2 new Zealanders do not know the symptoms of bowel cancer.
The symptoms are:
  • Change of bowel habit: Recent persistent change of bowel habit, e.g. looser more diarrhoea like motions, constipation or a mix of diarrhoea and constipation. Change of bowel habit is especially important if there is also bleeding.
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Tiredness, pale complexion, unexplained weight loss
  • A lump or mass in the tummy
  • Persistent abdominal pain
Those with a family history of bowel cancer should be aware that they are at increased risk and be encouraged to be extra vigilant of symptoms.

Simple changes to diet and lifestyle can reduce the risk of bowel cancer. Increasing the intake of vegetables, fruit, fish and foods high in fibre is helpful. High intakes of processed meat and fat are associated with bowel and stomach cancer  

Physical exercise can protect against bowel cancer. Alcohol intake and tobacco smoking are associated with an increased risk.
It is important for new Zealanders to see their primary health provider (GP) if they are concerned about their risk of bowel cancer and if they are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above to be persistent in seeking diagnosis and intervention, as often these symptoms are hard to separate from other conditions.

More information can be obtained by going to the Bowel Cancer website.

Please encourage those that you are care about to seek medical guidance if you have any concerns.