Thanks to Dame Deborah James, the NHS has seen a record number of bowel cancer screenings.


DAME Deborah James is a pioneer in bowel cancer screenings on the NHS.

Central Recorder columnist, who was 35 at the time she was diagnosed, spent five years campaigning fearlessly until her death on June 28th.

Record numbers of people are getting bowel cancer tests thanks to the lasting impression of the late cancer campaigner Dame Deborah James


Thanks to the legacy of Dame Deborah James, a late cancer campaigner, record numbers are now being tested for bowel cancer.Credit: Not known. Clear with picture desk
Dame Deborah James encouraged people to check their poo - which can be a key indicator of bowel cancer


Dame Deborah James advised people to examine their poo, which can be a sign of bowel cancer.Credit to Instagram

The mother-of-2 made it her mission. “break the poo taboo”Encourage people to have any unusual bowel symptoms and signs checked out.

According to the NHS 170.500 people were referred by the NHS for tests for lower gastro-intestinal cancers between May and Jul.

It is now up more than 30,000 compared with the same time in 2021 and nearly 80,000 above the same time two years ago.

Referrals for bowel cancer hit an all-time high in the second week of July, shortly after Dame Deborah’s death, up 60 per cent on pre-pandemic levels.

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Nearly 200,000 people also visited the NHS website in the past three months to check for symptoms of the disease.

These include changes to your stool, blood in your stool, stomach pains, and weight loss. 

This comes just after NHS statistics released on Thursday showed that in June 2022, 96.774 people in England were on the waiting lists for bowel investigations.

This compares to the 87,836 people who waited this time last year.

Figures show that people are coming forward to voice their concerns and getting referred for lifesaving tests.

Steve Barclay, health secretary, stated: “These figures reflect Dame Deborah James’ unwavering campaigning to raise awareness of bowel cancer.

“Through her courage and honesty she has inspired tens of thousands of people to come forward and get checked.”

National cancer director Dame Cally Palmer said: “Thanks to the brave and relentless campaigning of Dame Deborah James, bowel cancer has come to the forefront of a national conversation on catching cancer as early as possible.

“The fact that we have seen record numbers of people coming forward for bowel cancer checks shows people are taking the illness seriously and speaking to their GPs about it.”

It is vital to get a diagnosis early.

Bowel Cancer UK’s chief executive Genevieve Edwards said that “Bowel Cancer can be treated and curable, especially when detected early.” 

“Nearly everyone diagnosed at the earliest stage will survive bowel cancer, but this drops significantly as the disease develops.”

Deborah’s campaigning helped shine a spotlight on bowel carcinoma.

“As she would forever say.” ‘make sure you check your poo’.”

The charity however warned that more must be done to ensure that the NHS can provide more bowel cancer testing to meet demand.

Brits will have longer wait times for referrals because the waiting list is far larger than the available appointments.

Out of the 96 774 people who were waiting to take their test in June, 37% had to wait over 6 weeks and 21% had wait more then 13 weeks.

Bowel cancer is one of the UK’s most common cancers, with 43,000 cases and 17,000 deaths every year.

The NHS sends stool sample collection kits to over-50s in England so labs can check people’s poo for signs of blood – a possible sign of a tumour.

In early May, Dame Deborah revealed she had stopped active treatment and was receiving end-of-life care at her parents’ home in Woking, Surrey, with her husband and their two children on hand.

The podcaster was diagnosed in 2016 after which she kept her one million Instagram followers informed about her treatments.

Public and media alike praised her candid posts regarding her diagnosis and progress, and videos where she dances her way through treatment.

She launched the You, Me and The Big C podcast with Rachael Bland and Lauren Mahon in 2018.

She was made a dame by Prime Minister Boris Johnson: “If ever an honour was richly deserved, this is it.”

Here are the signs of bowel carcinoma you should know. Remember BOWEL

  1. B:Bleeding

There are many possible reasons for bleeding from the bottom or blood in your poo.

You could have bright red blood from hemorhoids, swollen blood vessels or piles in your back passage.

You could have dark reddish or black blood from your stomach or bowel.

Blood in your stools is one of the key signs of bowel cancer, so it’s important to mention it to your doctor so they can investigate.

2. O: An obvious change in the loo habits

It’s important to tell your GP if you have noticed any changes in your bowel habits, that lasts three weeks or longer.

It’s especially important if you have also noticed signs of blood in your poo.

You might notice you need to go to the loo more often, you might have looser stools or feel like you’re not going enough or fully emptying your bowels.

Don’t be embarrassed, your GP will have heard a lot worse! Talk up and get it checked.

3. W: Weight loss

This is a less common symptom than the others, but it’s important to be aware. If you’ve lost weight and don’t really know why, it’s worth mentioning to your GP.

You might not feel like eating or feel full.

4. E: Extreme tiredness

Bowel cancer that causes bleeding can cause a lack of iron in the body – anaemia. If you develop anaemia you’re likely to feel tired and your skin might look pale.

5. L: Lump, pain

Bowel cancer can also be diagnosed by a lump or pain, as with many other types of cancer.

It’s most likely you’ll notice a pain or lump in your stomach or back passage


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