Early Detection of Bowel Cancer

Bowel cancer is curable in 75% of people if caught early.

Did you know?

  • Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers registered and the second most common cause of death from cancer in New Zealand.
  • New Zealand has one of highest bowel cancer death rates in the OECD.
  • In 2008, 2801 people were diagnosed with bowel cancer and 1280 people died from the disease. By 2016 the number of new cases of bowel cancer diagnosed each year is projected to increase by 15 percent for men and 19 percent for women to 3302 (for all ages).
  • Over 70% of people with bowel cancer can be completely cured if diagnosed in time and treated.

What to look out for?

Symptoms of bowel cancer include:

  • Bleeding from the bottom and / or blood in your stool
  • A change in bowel habit lasting 4 weeks or more
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
  • A pain or lump in your abdomen (tummy)

Although symptoms are often caused by other conditions, it is important to get them checked by your doctor without delay. Remember if you have any concerns, speak to your doctor

Who is most at risk of getting bowel cancer?

Although the exact cause of bowel cancer is unknown, there are certain factors that may increase your risk.

  • Gender and age.  Bowel cancer affects both men and women. In the UK, around 95% of cases occur in people over the age of 50
  • Family history.  People with a first degree relative (such as mother, father, brother, sister, child) under 45 or with two or more first degree relatives with bowel cancer may be considered for further testing
  • Diet and lifestyle.  An inactive lifestyle and a poor diet that is low in fresh fruit and vegetables may increase the risk of bowel cancer. A high intake of red and processed meat, smoking and excess alcohol may increase the risk
  • Other conditions.  People with diabetes, a history of Crohn’s disease in the large bowel, or ulcerative colitis, or who have had previous polyps removed, may also be at an increased risk

There is a useful booklet for people who have an increased risk of developing bowel cancer.

It covers:

  • What are the symptoms of bowel cancer?
  • Early diagnosis and treatment.
  • How common is bowel cancer?
  • What can I do to reduce my risk of bowel cancer?
  • Family history
  • Tests

The booklet can be found at: http://www.health.govt.nz/publication/bowel-cancer-information-people-increased-risk-bowel-cancer

Helpful Websites








National Bowel Screening Programme