7 Nov, 2023

Understanding bowel cancer

Older Pacific man in park with his wife

Talking about bowel cancer can be uncomfortable, but we're encouraging everyone to talk about the signs and symptoms.

Bowel cancer is the second highest cause of cancer death in Aotearoa, and Pacific people are 21% more likely to die from bowel cancer than Pākehā.

We’ve pulled together information from Bowel Cancer NZ and Time to Screen NZ to help you understand when to get tested.

As with any cancer, catching it early are key, so the more you know about what to look for and when you can get screened, the better.

Here are 3 steps we encourage you and your whānau to take.

1. Get to know the symptoms

If you or someone you care about has noticed these changes, don't hesitate – see your GP immediately.

  • Bleeding from the bottom (rectal bleeding)
  • Change of bowel motions/habits that come and go over several weeks.
  • Anaemia
  • Severe persistent or periodic abdominal pain
  • A lump or mass in the abdomen
  • Tiredness and loss of weight for no obvious reason

For more information, visit Bowel Cancer NZ

2. Getting checked

Anyone in Aotearoa aged between 60-74 years old can get free bowel screening. This involves a self-test kit that is part of the National Bowel Screening Programme. This test is free, quick, and easy to do. You can even do it at home.

How to do the test

  • Collect a small sample from your bowel motion (poo) using the test stick, and put it into the tube.
  • Put the sample tube into the zip-lock bag provided.
  • Put the zip-lock bag, along with the completed consent form in the pre-paid return envelope.
  • Post it as soon as possible.

Tips on self-testing

  • Do the test as soon as possible.
  • To make sure the lab can process your test, make sure you return the kit within 6 months.
  • Until you’re ready to post, keep the sample in a cool place. You don’t need to store the test in the fridge.

For more information about bowel screening, visit Time to Screen (above information sourced from this website).

There are videos available across 11 Pacific languages to help you understand how to use the self-test kit. View them here

3. Talanoa matters

Bowel cancer can be uncomfortable to discuss but talking about it saves lives. The more we share our stories, the less of a hold it has on our people.

We encourage you to talk and share. Whether you are worried at yourself, or whānau, it's okay to have this conversation.

How we can help at The Fono

We have a dedicated team of bowel screening coordinators who can help you by

  • organising your self-test screening kit for you and talk you through how to use it.
  • helping you with any problems you might have with getting the kit. For example, we can talk you through testing mistakes or even order a new kit if your postal address was wrong.
  • booking a screening appointment, giving you reminders about your upcoming appointment and even drive you to and from the appointment.

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