Kaumātua encouraged to take bowel screening test

By Tema Hemi

Every day around eight people are diagnosed with bowel cancer in New Zealand.  The Whanganui DHB is rolling out a new campaign to provide regular testing for those over sixty in the Rangitikei district.  One 82-year-old kuia who has experienced bowel cancer testing is encouraging other kaumātua to take bowel screening seriously and to get it done.

Kuia Waimatao Maremare says, "The doctors were good and the process was very good and I had no problems."

Project manager for the bowel screening programme, Ben McMenamin says, "We've got one of the worst rates of bowel cancer in the whole world.  Bowel cancer is the second most common cancer killer in New Zealand."

The younger generation are also encouraging their elders to get checked.

One rangatahi says, ""I just think it's good for them to get tested so that they can stay around for as long as they can."

"I'd love my nan to stay around, she's my mum, she's raised me two years now.  To me, kaumātua are my inspiration", said another of the rangatahi on the Maripi Tuatini scholarship programme.

And with a new inflatable artificial bowel, Whanganui DHB staff can literally show the public how bowel cancer develops. 

McMenamin provides a demonstration, "So, this is what your bowel looks like when it's healthy.  Over time some cells can start to develop on your bowel and we're not necessarily sure why but some of those cells over time can grow even bigger and can develop into polyps.  When you have these you may notice that you have blood in your poo when you go to the toilet. 

"If that's the case you may want to get along to your GP to talk about it as soon as you can, it's really important.  If you leave these then some of them over time can actually grow further out of control and may go on to develop into bowel cancer."

The disease is slightly more common in males, who at times struggle to come to terms with their health issues.  

McMenamin says the best prevention is "a good healthy diet, fruit, veges and fibre, lots of exercise- and being smoke-free is the other important thing as well."

Maremare is now helping raise awareness too, by talking to others about the importance of checks. 

"Well, we managed to grab one today and bring him here," she says.

3,000 New Zealanders a year are diagnosed with bowel cancer, with 1,200 people dying of the disease annually nationwide.