Too many people in the Whanganui District Health Board region are ending up with permanent colostomies because they don't bowel cancer diagnosed in time, chief medical officer Frank Rawlinson says.

Region data on bowel cancer was released last week, by the Health Quality & Safety Commission.

It shows high rates of permanent colostomy, possibly because patients don't ask for help until their cancer is so far advanced that colostomy is the only option.

The failure to get help could be a result of high levels of poverty in the region.

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The symptoms of bowel cancer are rectal bleeding, a change to looser or more frequent bowel movements, unexplained weight loss and anaemia. Anyone with these is urged to get help quickly, especially if they are over 50 or have bowel cancer in their family.

The 2016 budget is introducing screening for bowel cancer. When that is rolled out in Whanganui Dr Rawlinson hopes everyone eligible will take advantage.