What’s all the fuss about our bowels?

SDHB Screening

The Southern District Health Board has launched the Bowel Cancer Screening Programme. The Cancer Society Otago and Southland Division is excited about the launch of this programme as the Southern Region has some of the highest rates of bowel cancer in New Zealand, and bowel cancer results in death for as many people as breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.

Early bowel cancer often has no symptoms – if you are aged between 60 and 74 you will be eligible to take part in the new free screening programme every two years (checking people who have no symptoms). For more information about the National Screening Programme visit www.timetoscreen.nz or call 0800 924 0432.


Symptom Awareness

The Cancer Society would like to emphasize that even if you are not eligible for the screening programme, it is important to be aware of your bowel health…even if it is a bit of an uncomfortable topic. It is important to know what is normal for you so you can spot any changes. If you notice any of these symptoms and they last longer than four to six weeks, tell your doctor.

  • Bleeding from your bottom
  • Very dark sticky poo or blood in your poo.
  • A recent change in your bowel motions: going to the toilet more often, diarrhoea, constipation or a feeling that your bowel does not empty completely.
  • Stomach pains, frequent wind pains, bloating or cramps.
  • A lump in your stomach

These symptoms are often caused by other conditions, but it is important to play it safe and talk to your doctor. 


No matter how well you’re supported by family/whanau and friends, it’s never easy to hear the words “you have cancer”, and to suddenly face a whole new world of medical appointments and cancer treatment. We understand how cancer can affect many aspects of a person’s life and how it can raise many unanswered questions. If you are diagnosed with bowel cancer and you want to talk to someone who is located in your community and will make the time to listen, please call the Cancer Society and ask to speak our supportive care team.

‘May the odds be ever in your favour’

The cause of bowel cancer is not fully known. A family history of bowel cancer, increasing age (risk increases with age), and a history of inflammatory bowel disease e.g. Crohns and Ulcerative Colitis, are risk factors you are unable to change. However, there is evidence that bowel cancer has been linked to smoking, drinking alcohol, low levels of exercise and diet. You can reduce your risk of bowel cancer by:

  • Being Smokefree.
  • If you drink alcohol, to reduce intake to 2 drinks for men and 1 for women a day or less, and have at least 2 alcohol-free days per week.
  • Being physically active everyday.
  • Eating more fibre (vegetables, fruits, wholegrains and pulses, such as beans and lentils)
  • If eating more than 500g cooked red meat (beef, pork, lamb) a week try cutting down.
  • Keeping processed meats and high sugar/salt foods as treats, such as salami, bacon, sugary drinks.

The Cancer Society’s Health Promotion Team is working to keep the places where we live, learn, work and play healthy. If you would like some information or support on how to keep your workplace or sports club healthy, please contact us.  

 30772448 10156388514039329 648226371 o3

The Bowel Screening Programme's Clinical Director, Susan Parry and The Cancer Society's Health Promotion and Advocacy Manager, Sophie Carty at the launch of the Southern District Health Board Bowel Screening Programme in Dunedin.