A woman engaging in a consultation with a doctor Medical Conditions
Bowel cancer (aka colon or colo-rectal cancer)

Bowel cancer develops when the cells lining the bowel wall develop the ability to grow in an uncontrolled manner, and may invade local structures or ultimately spread to other parts of the body. It is the second most common cause of cancer death in New Zealand and gets more common as people get older (>50).

Unfortunately symptoms may not develop until the condition is advanced but there are a number of things to watch out for, and that should be promptly investigated if they develop. These are:

  • A change in your bowel habit – Any sustained change from your usual (more or less frequent, change in consistency etc) should be discussed with your doctor
  • Blood or mucous in the stool. 
  • Unexplained anaemia – this will only be detected if your doctor performs blood tests, but should be investigated if identified
A National Bowel Cancer Screening Programme is being established in New Zealand and will be available in Waikato later this year but will only cover asymptomatic patients aged 60-75 initially. However, this is not a replacement for seeking advice if you develop symptoms or fall outside this age group.

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