Two minute bowel cancer check

Bowel cancer is the second highest cause of cancer death in New Zealand, with over 1200 people dying each year, as many as breast and prostate cancer combined.

June has been Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, a timely reminder for Kiwis to learn the symptoms and take action this winter.

“We are losing far too many loved ones to this disease every year, and we shouldn’t be. Bowel cancer is curable in 90% of cases if caught early enough. Early detection and prevention are key, and that’s why our focus this June is symptom awareness,” says Rebekah Heal, general manager at Bowel Cancer New Zealand.

“It only takes two minutes to check the five symptoms. If you have some concerns, head straight to your GP. They may then refer you on to a specialist for an endoscopy or colonoscopy, or for other interventions or explorations.”

The inspiration behind the Bowel Cancer Awareness Month campaign this year is Naomi Argyle, 45, a stage 4 bowel cancer patient given weeks to live. Naomi wants to see people act on their symptoms and get checked.

“I feel like I have to shout it from the rooftops, making noise so that if just one other person like me will go and get checked, and jump up and down if you have symptoms to get tests,” says Naomi. “Telling my girls was the worst thing I have ever done in my life. That’s what’s making me want to shout about this when I still can, to stop other families having to go through this,” she adds.

Bowel Cancer NZ has developed an online symptom checker, which 1500 Kiwis utilised last year. The charity also has awareness resources available to download and order via its website.

Bowel cancer is 90% curable if caught early.
These are the five symptoms:
• Bleeding from the rectum
• Change in bowel habits
• Persistent or sporadic abdominal pain
• Lump or mass in stomach
• Weight loss for no apparent reason

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