Thousands more people checked bowel cancer symptoms this week thanks to Deborah James' legacy, NHS says

NHS webpages on bowel cancer have been inundated with views following the cancer campaigner's death


The late Dame Deborah James has left a lasting legacy on the UK, as her tragic battle with bowel cancer inspired thousands to check for symptoms this week.

The podcast star and mother-of-two died on Tuesday aged 40 after being diagnosed with bowel cancer in December 2016, her family announced in a statement.

Visitors to the NHS webpage for bowel cancer increased tenfold this week, with visitors rising from 2,000 to 23,274.

Dame Deborah had a no-nonsense approach to discussing cancer, having shared her experiences of treatment and daily life since her diagnosis in 2016.

Concluding her final podcast in May, she said: "Check your poo. Come on. I can't leave on any other word apart from check your poo.

"I still have images of me dancing in poo outfits everywhere. So maybe I should leave on that final word. Check your poo."

NHS Chief Executive Amanda Pritchard paid tribute to Dame Deborah, who sadly died on Tuesday this week, saying she had been “an inspiration to us all” and that “talking about cancer saves lives".

Dame Deborah James died on Tuesday following a battle with bowel cancer
Dame Deborah James died on Tuesday following a battle with bowel cancer

The NHS has also urged people not to be “prudish about poo”, with people often reluctant to talk about symptoms due to embarrassment.

On May 9 this year Dame Deborah announced that her active cancer treatment had come to a close, adding how she did not know how long she had left.

"My body just can't continue any more," she said in a post on Instagram.

The podcaster and campaigner left a lasting legacy
The podcaster and campaigner left a lasting legacy

Her podcast co-host, Lauren Mahon, said "there's only one Deborah James" and asked to be given time besides a broken heart emoji.

The headteacher turned podcaster stepped away from her teaching responsibilities and began blogging about her cancer diagnosis under the name Bowel Babe in 2017.

She progressed, becoming a Sun columnist, then released a book, F*** You Cancer: How to Face the Big C, Live Your Life and Still Be Yourself.

Chief Executive of NHS England Amanda Pritchard praised the campaigning of Dame Deborah James
Chief Executive of NHS England Amanda Pritchard praised the campaigning of Dame Deborah James

Last month, she revealed she finished writing her second book, How To Live When You Could Be Dead, which topped the Amazon bestsellers' list and rose to number one through pre-orders.

Bowel cancer is England's fourth most common cancer, with 46 people dying daily from the terminal illness, according to Cancer Research UK.

Ms Pritchard continued her praise to the podcaster and campaigner, saying: “Dame Deborah James is an inspiration to us all – her death this week has touched the nation.

“People often don’t feel comfortable speaking about their cancer diagnosis and treatment but Deborah bravely speaking out about her personal journey has prompted thousands more people to check the symptoms.

"There is no doubt about it – this has been lifesaving.

“We must now continue Deborah’s fantastic work in her honour.

“Talking about cancer saves lives. So, our message to you is – don’t be prudish about poo, get checked out if you have worrying signs or symptoms.”

Symptoms of bowel cancer include:

- Changes in bowels habits, such as pooing more often than usual or a different consistency

- pain in the tummy or abdominal pain, which persists for more than a few days

- unexpected weight loss

- unexplained fatigue

National Cancer Director for NHS England, Dame Cally Palmer, stated: “Early detection of bowel cancer saves lives and Deborah has made a difference to so many people with her extraordinary courage and spirit.

“She did the unthinkable and through getting people to talk about this disease, she has been an inspiration to so many.

“We must continue what Deborah started.”