The Fono

Health & Social Services

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Bowel Cancer

New Zealand has one of the highest bowel cancer rates in the world, and latest figures show that bowel cancer is the most diagnosed cancer in NZ and we have the highest rate of bowel cancer deaths in the developed World. Bowel cancer may occur at any age, although 90% of cases are in people aged over 50.

The Fono encourages patients to understand the prevention, risks, signs and symptoms of bowel cancer and get checked out if you are concerned.

Having that awkward conversation with your loved ones and doctor promotes lifesaving early detection and treatment. The earlier bowel cancer is caught, the easier it is to treat, and 75% of bowel cancer is curable if caught early. This is why it is so important to know bowel cancers signs and symptoms.

Bowel cancer can develop without any early warning signs. The cancer can grow on the inside wall of the bowel for up to several years before spreading to other parts of the body. Often very small amounts of blood leaks from these growths and passes into the bowel motion before any symptoms are noticed.

The Fono runs a Pacific bowel screening support service, as part of the Waitemata District Health Board’s free* bowel screening pilot programme. Men and women aged 50 to 74 who live in the Waitemata District Health Board area can take part for free to check for early signs of bowel cancer. The Fono Bowel Screening service is coordinated by Fusi Mareko

Symptoms include: 

  • Bleeding from the bottom (rectal bleeding) without any obvious reason. Or if you have other symptoms such as straining, soreness, lumps and itchiness
  • A persistent change in bowel habit going to the toilet more often or experiencing looser stools for several weeks
  • Abdominal pain especially if severe
  • Any lumps or mass in your tummy
  • Weight loss and tiredness (a symptom of anaemia)

The first step you can take to protect yourself against bowel cancer is to be aware of the symptoms. And most importantly, see your GP if you are at all concerned.

Find out more

Bowel screening service 

Make an appointment

Bowel screening programme coordinator