October 5, 2018

A Bowel Cancer New Zealand funded study ‘New Zealanders’ experiences and pathways to a diagnosis of bowel cancer: a cross-sectional descriptive study of a younger cohort’ is the first to present bowel cancer patients’ perspectives and experiences of the pathways to diagnosis in New Zealand. The University of Otago study found significant delays were experienced by many participants.

Bowel Cancer New Zealand (NZ) spokesperson Professor Sarah Derrett says, “This study indicates inequities in terms of obtaining a timely diagnosis exist in New Zealand. People aged under 60, with no tertiary qualification, having a poor first experience with a healthcare professional, and people diagnosed in public hospitals (compared to private) took longer to obtain a diagnosis.”

The researchers note it seems likely socioeconomic factors are related to delay – where wealthier people are able to pay for investigations such as private colonoscopy (which cost approximately $3000), but this being beyond the reach of many New Zealanders. “Bowel Cancer NZ believes all New Zealanders should have the same chance of a timely diagnosis whatever their income; being diagnosed at an earlier stage increases people’s chance of survival”, says Derrett.

The study also highlights a lack of public knowledge around bowel cancer symptoms and the need for future education initiatives to rectify this. Zoe Windner, a third-year medical student who collected the data as a summer student based in Preventive and Social Medicine at the Dunedin School of Medicine says, “The importance of patients knowing to talk to their healthcare providers about bowel cancer symptoms was confirmed, even if symptoms seem intermittent”.

A study, funded by the Health Research Council, is currently underway elsewhere. “Our findings support the need for this research which will consider, with larger patient numbers, delays in obtaining a timely diagnosis,” says Derrett.

Bowel Cancer NZ encourages open discussion about bowel cancer with medical professionals and avoiding ‘sitting on your symptoms’. Symptoms include:

  • Bleeding from the bottom or seeing blood in the toilet after a bowel motion;
  • Change of bowel motions over several weeks without returning to normal;
  • Persistent or periodic severe pain in the abdomen;
  • A lump or mass in the abdomen;
  • Tiredness and loss of weight for no particular reason;
  • Anaemia.

Those who have a family history of bowel cancer or want to do regular checks, can talk to their GP or buy a commercially available bowel screening kit available at Life or Unichem pharmacies. However, if you have symptoms, we advise seeing your GP immediately.

More information on bowel cancer and Bowel Cancer NZ can be found at
http://www.bowelcancernz.org.nz

For further information:

Mary Bradley, Communications Manager, Bowel Cancer New Zealand
+64 21 027 51924

Or Chelsea Halliwell, Community Ambassador
chelsea@resolvecommunications.co.nz or +64 21 020 88088

About Bowel Cancer New Zealand

  • Bowel Cancer New Zealand (NZ) is a patient-focused charity organisation.
  • The registered charity was founded in 2010 by a group of people affected by bowel cancer,
    committed to improving bowel cancer awareness and outcomes for people with the disease.
  • Bowel Cancer NZ aims to provide clear and up-to-date information about the disease,
    symptoms, what to do if diagnosed and to support patients and families affected by bowel
    cancer.
  • The ultimate aim of Bowel Cancer NZ is to prevent lives being lost to this disease and to
    promote the national screening program rollout in New Zealand.
Download PDF