Bowel cancer

Bowel cancer kills more men in NZ than prostate cancer, yet if detected early enough, 75% of bowel cancers can be cured.

all about bowel cancer

Bowel cancer is also known as colon cancer, rectal cancer, or colorectal cancer – depending on where in the bowel the tumour is. Bowel cancer develops when lumps (polyps) in the bowel turn cancerous. Lots of people have polyps, and most of the time they won’t turn into cancer. Removing polyps, whether they are cancerous or not, can stop bowel cancer from developing.

There are a few things we should look out for that might be a signs of bowel cancer:

  • Bleeding from your bum, or blood in your poo
  • Needing to poo more often
  • Having runny poo for several weeks
  • Lumps or swelling in your tummy
  • Weight loss

Bowel cancer is most common in men over 50, but it can affect men of all ages.

Your chances of developing bowel cancer is increased if you consume alcohol, smoke cigarettes, are overweight, exercise very little and consume a lot of red meat or processed foods.

Bowel cancer can be hereditary. If someone in your family has bowel cancer, you have a higher chance of developing it.


If you’re over 50, we recommend you get tested for bowel cancer every 2 years .

Your doctor can organise a bowel screening test for you. The screening test is called a Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT), and can pick up on very early symptoms of bowel cancer before you have any visible signs. The test involves taking a poo sample and getting it checked at a lab for any signs of blood. If you are doing the test at home, the sample can be posted to a lab, and the results are sent to both you and your doctor.

If you’re at high risk, or if the initial screening test comes back positive, your doctor will discuss the next steps, which might be looking for polyps with an endoscope or having a CT scan to look for tumours.

If you live in the Waitamata DHB area and are aged between 50-74, you should have been invited to take part in the DHB free bowel screening pilot. If you live outside this area, and want to do the screening test at home, you may be able to buy a DIY bowel screening test at your local pharmacy. For more information on the test visit Bowel Screen Aotearoa.

Depending on the size and stage of the cancer, you’ll be offered different treatment options. For some, polyps or tumours might be removed. If the cancer is more advanced, your doctor will help you choose the best treatment combination from these options:

  • Medication
  • Surgery
  • Radiotherapy
  • Chemotherapy

Scott's Story

Scott McWilliams is passionate about raising awareness of how easy bowel screening kits are to use and how much of a difference they can make. As a cancer survivor, he places extra value on a test that can help detect and prevent bowel cancer.


useful resources

Here are some useful brochures and resources that you can download for more information on bowel cancer.

share your story

If you would like to share your story about beating bowel cancer we’d love to hear from you. Fill in the form and we’ll get in touch.