Dr Erica Whineray Kell

Southern Cross Healthcare steps up for Bowel Cancer Awareness Month

Tuesday , 18 June 2024 by Carolyn Brooke

June is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month and Southern Cross Healthcare is joining forces with Waitematā Endoscopy, The Rutherford Clinic and Southern Endoscopy to support Bowel Cancer New Zealand to raise awareness about bowel cancer. The aim of the partnership is to encourage New Zealanders of all ages to check themselves for symptoms and take action to prevent, treat and recover from bowel cancer.

Dr Erica Whineray Kelly, Chief Medical Officer for Southern Cross Healthcare said bowel cancer is the second highest cause of cancer death in New Zealand, and this should not be the case.

“Bowel cancer is preventable, detectable and treatable – and we’re determined to be part of a system-wide drive to make a difference,” Whineray Kelly said.

“With our partners Waitematā Endoscopy, The Rutherford Clinic and Southern Endoscopy, we’ve made a $20,000 donation to Bowel Cancer New Zealand to expand nurse educator support. Education is at the heart of every successful health intervention, and we all know this will help more New Zealanders live healthier lives.”

Whineray Kelly also points to one of the key pieces of work Southern Cross and partners do every day in fighting bowel cancer.

“In 2023 we collectively performed 23,318 endoscopy procedures, including colonoscopy – where New Zealanders had been referred by their GPs or specialists for investigation. Using a soft, flexible tube with a very small camera on the end, the endoscopist may take biopsies (tiny samples of tissue for review under a microscope), remove polyps (which can lead to cancer), open blocked or narrow areas, and treat bleeding,” Whineray Kelly said.

“We believe colonoscopy is the gold standard in bowel cancer diagnosis and initial treatment. While we can’t put an exact figure on the lives saved off the back of more than 23,000 procedures, our team and partners have many patients who have gone on to get rid of the disease, recover quickly and get back to living a meaningful and productive life. Those are the outcomes that drive us.”

Rebekah Heal, Bowel Cancer New Zealand’s General Manager, said the organisation is so thankful for the support from the partnership.

“The donation and support from Southern Cross Healthcare and their endoscopy partners; Waitematā Endoscopy, The Rutherford Clinic and Southern Endoscopy will help so much in the delivery of our education programme and to arm more New Zealanders with the knowledge they need to identify and manage this insidious disease,” Heal said.

“We know the work Southern Cross and their partners do in conjunction with the public system makes an impact. And we’re looking forward to achieving even more success by collaborating with them to tackle bowel cancer.”

Heal said the focus for the June campaign is to drive home the basic message of taking two minutes to check the five symptoms.

“If you have some concerns, head straight to your GP. They may then refer you on to a specialist for an endoscopy / colonoscopy or for other interventions or explorations.”

Bowel cancer is 90% curable if caught early, these are the 5 symptoms

  • Bleeding from the bottom
  • Change in bowel habits
  • Persistent or sporadic abdominal pain
  • Lump or mass in stomach
  • Weight loss for no apparent reason