Bowel cancer checks hit record high ‘thanks to Dame Deborah James’

A record number of people are undergoing bowel cancer checks after the death of campaigner Dame Deborah James, health bosses have said.

Dame Deborah, also known by her social media name Bowel Babe, had raised awareness of the disease until her death on June 28 at the age of 40.

According to the NHS, between May and July, 170,500 people were referred for checks for suspected lower gastrointestinal cancers.

It is up more than 30,000 from the same period in 2021, and up nearly 80,000 from the same period two years ago.

Dame Deborah James, with her husband Sebastien Bowen during a private visit to the Chelsea Flower Show (The Harkness Rose Company/PA)

(PA Media)

Figures also showed bowel cancer referrals hit a record high in the second week of July, shortly after Dame Deborah’s death, up 60% from pre- pandemic.

The last three months have also seen nearly 200,000 more visitors to the NHS website to check for symptoms of the disease.

National Cancer Director Dame Cally Palmer said: “Thanks to the courageous and relentless campaign of Dame Deborah James, bowel cancer is at the forefront of a national conversation about finding cancer as early as possible. , and the fact that we’ve seen record numbers of people coming in for bowel cancer checks shows that people are taking the disease seriously and talking to their GP about it.

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

Genevieve Edwards, Chief Executive of Bowel Cancer UK, said: “The number of people visiting bowelcanceruk.org.uk has never been higher, with tens of thousands more people seeking information about the symptoms of the disease since the tragic death of Dame Deborah James.

“There has also been a spike in people affected by bowel cancer posting to our forum, contacting our Ask the Nurse service and we know people have visited their GP after hearing her story.”

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 close at hand.

The podcaster was diagnosed in 2016 and kept her one million Instagram followers up to date on her treatments.

Her candid posts about her progress and diagnosis, including videos of her dancing through treatment, have been praised by the public and the media.

Alongside Lauren Mahon and Rachael Bland, she launched the podcast You, Me And The Big C in 2018.

She became a lady, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson declaring: “If ever an honor was richly deserved, this is it.”



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

Sebastien Bowen

Dame Deborah later said she felt “honored and shocked” to be considered for the honour.

Her husband Sébastien Bowen confided in the difficulties of the last months he spent with the former deputy headmaster, whom he married in France in 2008.

Mr Bowen told The Times: ‘She was making the most of every last moment. But it was her. This is how I will always remember Deborah – the ability in the worst of times to embrace life.

“More than anyone I know, she loved life, especially since it was getting so short and every minute counted.”

He continued: “She was so weak that she couldn’t do much on her own, which she found frustrating as she was naturally fiercely independent.

“She was paralyzed from the waist down and had to deal with the psychological battle of the reality of her new disability. She couldn’t even go to the kitchen for food, cleaning or dressing.

“I’m not going to pretend it was easy. It was a new experience for all of us and we had to find our bearings, but it also brought us closer to her and to each other.

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