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Dame Deborah James helps more people check signs of cancer

Thousands more people checked bowel cancer symptoms online this week thanks to Dame Deborah James, NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard revealed today.


Latest figures show there was a tenfold increase- from 2,000 to 23,274 -in visits to the NHS webpages for bowel cancer, on Wednesday this week compared to the day before.

NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard paid tribute to Deborah James who sadly died on Tuesday this week, saying that she had been “an inspiration to us all” adding that “talking about cancer saves lives”.


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

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

Bowel cancer is England’s fourth most common cancer, with around 37,000 new cases in England each year.


Amanda Pritchard, Chief Executive of the NHS said: “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”.


Dame Cally Palmer, National Cancer Director for NHS England, said: “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”.


Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Dame Deborah James has left an incredible legacy and changed the national conversation around cancer. These figures reflect the powerful and lifesaving impact she has had – inspiring countless people across the country to get informed, get checked and speak up.


“Having lost my father to bowel cancer, I know how devastating this disease can be, and we must continue to break down barriers around what she called the ‘C word’ – encouraging people to have open and honest discussions.


“Our upcoming 10-Year Cancer Plan will build on this with a focus on early diagnosis to help save more lives”.

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