Bowel cancer checks at record high after death of Deborah James, NHS says

A record number of people in England are having bowel cancer checks following the death of Deborah James, the NHS has said.

James, who is also known by his social media handle Bowel Babe, had been raising awareness of the disease until his death at the end of June at the age of 40.

Between May and July, 170,500 people were referred for suspected lower gastrointestinal cancer, according to the NHS. This is an increase of more than 30,000 people compared to the same period in 2021, and almost 80,000 more than the same period two years ago.

The figures also show bowel cancellation referrals hit an all-time high in mid-July, a 60% increase on pre-pandemic levels. A total of 200,000 more people also checked the NHS website for bowel cancer symptoms in the last three months.

Cally Palmer, NHS England’s National Cancer Director, said: “Thanks to Dame Deborah James’ brave and relentless campaigning, bowel cancer has come to the fore of a national conversation about catching cancer as early as possible, and the fact that Han has seen record numbers of people coming forward for bowel cancer checks shows that people are taking the disease seriously and talking to their GPs about it.

“It is so important that we continue Dame Deborah’s work to raise awareness of bowel cancer and save more lives, so anyone who has noticed symptoms please come forward.”

Genevieve Edwards, chief executive of Bowel Cancer UK, said: “People visiting have never been higher, with tens of thousands more people seeking information about the symptoms of the disease since the tragic death by Dame Deborah James.

“There was also an increase in people affected by bowel cancer posting on our forum, contacting our Ask the Nurse service, and we know that people have visited their GP as a result of hearing the his story.”

Earlier in May, James revealed that she had stopped active treatment and was receiving end-of-life care at her parents’ home in Woking, Surrey, with her husband and two children. James, who was diagnosed in 2016, shared his journey with more than a million followers on Instagram.

When she was made a dame, James said she was “honoured and shocked” to be considered for the honour.

Her husband, Sebastien Bowen, has spoken of the difficulties of the past few months with the former deputy director, whom he married in France in 2008.

Bowen previously told the Times: “She was making the most of every last moment. But that was her. That’s how I’ll always remember Deborah: the ability to embrace life at its worst.

“More than anyone I know she loved life, even more so when it was so short and every minute counted.”

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