The importance of bowel cancer screening

Bowel cancer screening

Bowel cancer occurs when cells in the colon or rectum (parts of the large intestine, or bowel) grow abnormally and form a lump or tumour.

Bowel cancer often starts as small, non-cancerous polyps that form on the walls of the large intestine (bowel). Over time, some of these polyps may become cancerous. If they do, the cells can spread to the lymph nodes and through the bloodstream to other parts of the body, most commonly the liver and the lungs. 

Three main symptoms include:

  • Blood in your bowel motions – this may look like red blood or black bowel motions.
  • A change in bowel habits that continues for several weeks, such as diarrhoea, constipation, or feeling that your bowel doesn't empty completely.
  • General abdominal discomfort (frequent gas pains, bloating or cramps) that can be confused with indigestion.

Diagnosing bowel cancer

If you experience any of the above symptoms or you have a family history of bowel cancer see your doctor. Annual bowel cancer screening is recommended for both men and women aged 50 and over, even if you have no symptoms.

Life Pharmacies now offer BowelScreen Aotearoa – a bowel cancer awareness, education and screening programme which involves a clinically proven, sensitive and reliable test. The aim of screening is to find any polyps or to find cancer early when it is easier to treat and cure. For more information, speak with your local Life Pharmacist.


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