Wiremu Hohepa is not reluctant to talk about his body or his health.
The 60-year-old laughed often while candidly sharing the details of his recent experience of sending away a stool sample for testing, and eventually having a colonoscopy and biopsy.
"It's silly the way people feel about our bodies," he said.
"Not many people talk about this, but how many tangi have we been to because of cancer?"
Wiremu's sister died when she was just 30 years old.
"Looking back, I think it was cervical cancer. But it's just not talked about."
Wiremu's recent experience with the bowel screening programme may be part of the reason he's so adamant that open, honest conversations are necessary.
Through the programme, Wiremu recently wound up at Whangarei Hospital, where a 2.5mm polyp was removed from his bowel.
And the timing of his decision to go ahead with the screening may have been life-saving.
According to Byron Theron, clinical lead of the Te Tai Tokerau/Northland Bowel Screening Programme, the key was catching polyps - or small growths - before they become cancer.
"Polyps are asymptomatic in most cases, despite being quite sizable," Theron said.
"In a year or two, they can become cancer.
"That's the problem with bowel cancer; once you have symptoms, you're past the early stage."
June marks Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, an annual initiative of Bowel Cancer New Zealand from June 1-30 to raise public awareness of the disease that claims the lives of 23 New Zealanders every week.
This year's theme, Move your butt, is all about encouraging people to raise funds through people sponsoring their physical activity challenge.
All funds will go to Bowel Cancer NZ to provide support and resources for bowel cancer patients and their whānau, educational and support resources and continued research of treatments.
As with most cancers, early detection is key for effective treatment and better outcomes.
People who are diagnosed with bowel cancer and receive treatment at an early stage, have a 90 per cent chance of long-term survival.
The National Bowel Screening Programme has been running in Te Tai Tokerau since November 2, and works on a two-year invitation process, with a home-based Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) kit mailed to all 60-74-year-olds.
The FIT test checks for traces of blood in a bowel movement, which could not be seen by the naked eye.
In the past six months, more than 14,000 test kits have been sent out and more than 150 colonoscopy performed in Kaitaia and Whangarei hospitals, with 13 cancers detected.
Theron said a positive FIT test would lead a person to the colonoscopy stage, and polyps would be found in 60-70 per cent of those people, with up to 10 per cent turning out to be cancer.
"He's now protected from bowel cancer, probably for the next 10 years," said Theron of Wiremu.
"We'll repeat a stool test in five years to pick up any new polyps that may develop."
Theron said the team does its best to make people feel relaxed and comfortable during hospital procedures.
Wiremu had his choice of music, gas for sedation to allow for ongoing communication, and plenty of reassurance from nurses.
Although several moments of his experience were unfamiliar and therefore less-than-comfortable, Wiremu said he would not hesitate to repeat the process.
"As men, we put on a strong face and don't take ourselves to the doctor," he said.
"I was lucky to have a mother who cared and taught me to look after myself.
"Don't be shy to talk to the doctor, and don't lie to them. You've got to be open with them."
Wiremu is also committed to doing what he can to keep the health he now has.
"I love my fruit, I eat that up. But I've got to get more greens into me," he said.
"They also told me to keep an eye on my stools. Have a little peek at your poos!" he laughed.
"Seriously, everybody needs to talk about it so we can take care of ourselves."
Wiremu is adamant all eligible people take the opportunity the programme offers.
"There's nothing to fear but fear itself," he said.
"The opportunity is there. You've just got to go and get that check."
To find out more about Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, visit: www.moveyourbutt.org.nz/