'Move your Butt challenge': TV presenter fronts bowel cancer campaign

Jenny-May Clarkson will front June's Bowel Cancer Appeal Month. Photo: Getty
Jenny-May Clarkson will front June's Bowel Cancer Appeal Month. Photo: Getty
TV presenter Jenny-May Clarkson wants to help kick bowel cancer in the butt because the disease has become personal.

The TVNZ broadcaster, who is a former Silver Fern and police officer, lost her brother to bowel cancer and is hoping her support for the Move your Butt challenge in June - part of Bowel Cancer Awareness Month - will help others get checked out and potentially save their lives.

Clarkson's brother, Jeffrey Coffin, was 56 when he died in 2018. She said by the time he was diagnosed, it was too late.

"Cancer is such a hideous thing, no matter what kind of cancer it is. But because my brother died of bowel cancer, I'm acutely aware of it," Clarkson said.

She said the Government's move in the Budget to lower the age of Māori and Pasifika being tested from 60 to 50 would save hundreds of lives.

Bowel Cancer New Zealand welcomed the Budget announcement, although the initiative will only start from July 2023.

Bowel Cancer NZ medical advisor Professor Sue Crengle said: "This has been a long time coming, and while it is great news it will roll out nationally in 2023, it should have happened when the screening programme was introduced. A worrying number of Māori and Pasifika people present with advanced stage three or four cancer, significantly lowering their chances of long-term survival - screening will help detect cancers earlier."

Bowel Cancer NZ has been calling for Māori and Pasifika to enter screening from the age of 50 since 2017, as noted in a letter to the NZ Medical Journal.

"It has taken years of advocating by Bowel Cancer NZ, Māori and other advocates to lower the age for Māori and Pasifika. We would want to see the Ministry of Health moving much more quickly in future to correct such known inequities," Crengle said.

The current screening programme is inequitable. At present, just over half of bowel cancer cases in Māori present before the age of 60 years (58 per cent in females and 52 per cent in males), whereas just under a third of bowel cancers in non-Māori are diagnosed before 60 (27 per cent in females and 29 per cent in males).

The announcement comes ahead of June's Bowel Cancer Awareness Month. Bowel Cancer NZ's annual Move Your Butt challenge encourages all New Zealanders to get off their butts and move more.

Money raised will go towards vital research and support for bowel cancer patients.

"Doing the Move your Butt challenge is just one thing we can all do to raise awareness of bowel cancer and to acknowledge that it is hard for patients and their families, especially in a COVID environment," Clarkson said.

The campaign runs from June 1 to 30, and Bowel Cancer NZ general manager Rebekah Heal wants all New Zealanders - young or old, fit or unfit - to move their butts more during June.

"Every day, on average, eight Kiwis will be diagnosed with bowel cancer, and three people will die from it," Heal said.

"By joining us, you'll be raising vital funds for research and patient support services such as counselling, which is needed more than ever. We receive no Government funding and rely on the generosity of New Zealanders to help us continue the important work we do."

"Together, let's get moving to beat the devastating impact of bowel cancer at moveyourbutt.org.nz," Heal said.

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