Natalie Akoorie

Natalie Akoorie is a reporter at the NZ Herald based in Hamilton.

Kiwis urged to be upfront on No 2 cancer

Campaign aims to raise awareness of disease people are too embarrassed to talk about.

Nigel Latta is one of many Kiwis urging people to get over their awkwardness and talk about bowel cancer. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Nigel Latta is one of many Kiwis urging people to get over their awkwardness and talk about bowel cancer. Photo / Mark Mitchell

A Hollywood movie star and two All Black brothers have helped launch a campaign raising awareness of New Zealand's second most deadly cancer.

Twenty-two well-known Kiwis, including Nigel Latta, All Blacks Owen and Ben Franks, Sam Neill and Sir Douglas Myers, are urging people to get over their awkwardness and talk about bowel cancer.

It claims 1200 lives each year - four times the number of people killed in road crashes - but is rarely talked about because of its embarrassing symptoms.

Beat Bowel Cancer Aotearoa says the death toll doesn't need to be so high because bowel cancer can be treated successfully if caught early.

"The tragic thing is that 75 per cent of cases are curable if caught early, but too many Kiwis are dying because they're not willing to discuss their symptoms," said chief executive Megan Smith.

Only 55 per cent of people diagnosed with bowel cancer, also known as colorectal or colon cancer, survive more than five years.

In other OECD countries which have national screening programmes, the survival rate is 75 per cent.

The "I give a crap" campaign is aimed at sparking conversations about bowel cancer and its symptoms, a subject avoided by most.

Clinical psychologist and TV personality Nigel Latta urged people to talk about "number twos" particularly if there was a family history of bowel cancer.

"My dad died of bowel cancer. I wish he'd talked about his symptoms sooner, because then my boys might still have their granddad."

The campaign video on YouTube has had more than 5500 views and Mrs Smith is encouraging people to spread the word by liking the campaign on Facebook and posting comments on Twitter.

A link to the video, which encourages open conversation about warning signs among friends and family when they get together this Christmas, was tweeted by Sonny Bill Williams, who has more than 330,000 followers.

A $31 million bowel cancer screening pilot programme started in the Waitemata District Health Board region in October 2011.

Through it, 75 people have been diagnosed with the cancer.

But no national screening programme likely until 2021, and Mrs Smith said 10,000 more New Zealanders would die in that time from bowel cancer.

People worried about bowel cancer can buy the same tester kit used by the DHB from any pharmacy or go to a GP.

- NZ Herald

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