New Zealanders are being asked to show they ‘give a crap this Christmas’ by talking to their loved ones about the dangers of bowel cancer. It is the most common cancer affecting both men and women in New Zealand, with almost 3,000 cases diagnosed each year.
Though the standard survival rate in OECD countries is 75%, only 55% of New Zealanders with bowel cancer will survive five years beyond diagnosis, in part because of our reluctance to talk about symptoms.
“It’s shocking to think four times as many people die of bowel cancer annually than in road traffic accidents, yet so few of us know enough about this terrible disease,” Beat Bowel Cancer Aotearoa (BBCA) CEO Megan Smith says.
“The tragic thing is that 75% of cases are curable if caught early, but too many Kiwis are dying because they’re not willing to discuss their symptoms.”
In an effort to improve New Zealand’s survival rates, BBCA has launched an awareness campaign featuring some of New Zealand’s most recognisable faces, including well-known clinical psychologist and TV personality Nigel Latta, in a video that asks Kiwis to ‘give a crap this Christmas’.
Ms Smith says, “Our ‘I Give a Crap’ campaign aims to remove the embarrassment factor and encourage open conversation about warning signs among Kiwi families and friends.
“It is difficult to talk about symptoms such as having to go to the toilet more often or blood in your poo, abdominal pain or lumps in your tummy, but an awkward conversation could save the life of someone you love.”
Known for his no-nonsense, humorous approach to child and family issues, Mr Latta is also encouraging Kiwis to have that awkward conversation about their bowels. It’s a conversation he believes could have saved his own father.
“As a psychologist and a parent, I do understand it can be difficult to discuss awkward topics, but if we continue to avoid this particular conversation, people will continue to die. How many of us need to lose people we love before we can bring ourselves to start talking about poo? My dad died of bowel cancer. I wish he’d talked about his symptoms sooner, because then my boys might still have their granddad.”
Other participants in the ‘I Give a Crap’ campaign include April Ieremia, Valerie Adams and Sam Neill, all of whom want to support the messages of awareness and conversation.
“We are so thrilled that this group of well-known Kiwis is helping us bring about this change,” Ms Smith said. “We also need people’s help to spread the word by sharing the ‘I Give a Crap’ video online and liking it on Facebook and Twitter. The more people hear the message about bowel cancer, the more people we can save.
“In this country the outcomes for the disease are horrendous compared with other developed nations, and one of the most effective ways to improve the outcomes is through awareness campaigns such as ’I Give a Crap’.”
Bowel cancer is New Zealand's second most deadly cancer, with those diagnosed only having a 55% chance of surviving more than five years. BBCA, a patient-led organisation committed to reducing the impact of bowel cancer on our community through awareness, education and support, hopes to increase the survival rate to 75% through awareness campaigns.
Ms Smith is thankful to the campaign’s corporate sponsor, Cottonsoft, a New Zealand tissue-converting company that manufactures toilet tissue, paper towels and serviettes. The company became an official supporter of BBCA earlier in the year after learning of a staff member’s personal connection to the disease.