Dame Deborah James: why bowel cancer checks are up since her death

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Deborah James, who died in June at the age of 40, inspired millions with her colon cancer awareness campaign.

Dame Deborah, who was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer in December 2016, shared her journey with the disease on her Instagram profile.GutBabe‘ and podcast’You, me and the Big C‘, which she co-founded in 2018 with Steve Bland and Lauren Mahon.

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She campaigned for colon cancer until her death on June 28 aged 40, raising over £6million for Cancer Research UK in the final weeks of her life.

Colon cancer screenings are at a record high following the death of Dame Deborah James

According to the NHS, referrals for suspected lower gastrointestinal cancers hit record highs between the months of May and July – with more than 170,500 referrals for health checks.

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This represents an increase of over 30,000 compared to the same period last year and an increase of 80,000 compared to the same period two years ago.

Specifically, referrals for colorectal cancer also hit an all-time high in July, with the latest numbers showing a 60% increase from pre-pandemic levels.

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have NHS cancer guide attributed much of it to Dame Deborahwho, by winning the hearts of the nation, encouraged people to speak out about the disease and worked to raise awareness of symptoms such as blood in the stool.

A total of 200,000 more people have searched the NHS website for bowel cancer symptoms in the past three months, the study also found.

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National Cancer Director Dame Cally Palmer said: “Thanks to the courageous and tireless campaign of Dame Deborah James, colon cancer has moved to the forefront of a national conversation about catching cancer at its earliest.

“The fact that we’ve seen a record number of people coming in for colorectal cancer screening shows that people are taking the disease seriously and are talking to their GPs about it.

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“It’s so important that we continue Dame Deborah’s work to raise awareness about colon cancer and save more lives – so please reach out to anyone who has noticed symptoms.”

Dame Deborah shared her cancer journey on Instagram

Erica Squire, a colon cancer survivor, commented: “There are definitely misconceptions about the disease and I was so proud to see Dame Deborah James’ tough campaign and the work she has done to dispel the myths about it. “

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Ms Squire was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2017 after suffering abdominal pain. She received chemotherapy and surgery to remove her tumor before being given the all-clear in 2018.

She continued, “Dame Deborah has been very interested in breaking down the stigma surrounding colon cancer – in my experience people are just too embarrassed to talk about their symptoms and they shouldn’t.”

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In her battle with the disease, Dame Deborah underwent multiple surgeries and treatments, including experimental drugs, but eventually stopped active treatment and began end-of-life care with her husband and two children in Woking, Surrey.

She continued to talk about bowel cancer, the fourth most common form of cancer in England, and launched the GutBabe Money on JustGiving in the last few months of her life.

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Dame Deborah, whose posthumous book ‘How to live when you could be dead‘ is due to be released later this week and has so far raised £7,474,575 for Cancer Research UK.

In recognition of her remarkable campaigning, she received a damehood and a visit from Prince William.

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Deborah James receives her damehood from Prince William: Credit Instagram @bowellbabe

As she was transferred to end-of-life care, Dame Deborah wrote a final message to those following her journey.

She said: “Find a life worth enjoying, take risks, love deeply, have no regrets and always, always have rebellious hope.

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“And finally, check your poop — it could save your life.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Steve Barclay said the figures reflect the “enduring legacy of Dame Deborah James” and encouraged anyone with symptoms to get checked out as soon as possible.

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