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‘Check your poo’ – Dame Deborah James’ potentially lifesaving last words

Almost half of adults in the UK can’t name a single symptom of bowel cancer, despite it being the fourth most common cancer.

Emily Sergeant Emily Sergeant - 29th June 2022

Dame Deborah James’ potentially lifesaving last words are being shared far and wide after it was announced that she has sadly died at age 40.

Tributes have been pouring celebrating the life of influential journalist, podcast host, and campaigner, Dame Deborah James – better known as the Bowel Babe – ever since the heartbreaking news broke that she had passed away on Wednesday following diagnosed with incurable bowel cancer back in 2016.

Dame Deborah announced back in early May this year that her cancer was terminal, and was to begin hospice-at-home palliative care.

Dame Deborah passed away “peacefully” surrounded by her family.

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A statement confirming her passing shared by her loved ones on Instagram read: “Deborah, who many of you will know as Bowelbabe, was an inspiration and we are incredibly proud of her and her work and commitment to charitable campaigning, fundraising and her endless efforts to raise awareness of cancer that touched so many lives.

“Deborah shared her experience with the world to raise awareness, break down barriers, challenge taboos and change the conversation around cancer. Even in her most challenging moments, her determination to raise money and awareness was inspiring.

Read more: Presenter and campaigner Dame Deborah James has died age 40

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Presenter and campaigner Dame Deborah James has died at age 40, The Manc
Dame Deborah James has died aged 40 / Credit: Deborah James (via Instagram)

“We thank you for giving us time in private as a family, and we look forward to continuing Deborah’s legacy long into the future through the BowelBabe Fund.

“Thank you for playing your part in her journey, you are all incredible.”

Since receiving the tragic news that her cancer was terminal, and setting up the BowelBabe Fund, Dame Deborah went on gone on to raise a whopping £6.9 million and counting for Cancer Research UK to raise awareness of bowel cancer and “fund clinical trials and research into personalised medicine for cancer patients”.

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In her final days, she also inspired leading toilet roll manufacturer Andrex, and retail giant M&S to partner with charity Bowel Cancer UK as part of the #GetOnARoll campaign and commit to adding the symptoms of bowel cancer and lifesaving information to millions of toilet roll packages stocked on shelves across the UK.

Her tireless campaigning and fundraising efforts earned her a Damehood – which was presented to her in her back garden by Prince William on 13 May.

But her legacy will continue long into the future.

At the end of the statement confirming her passing, Dame Deborah’s last words were shared by her family in a short message – and they could potentially save millions of lives.

Read more: The inspiring legacy left by Dame Deborah James as tributes pour in

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

“And finally, check your poo – it could just save your life.”

Bowel Cancer UK says almost half of adults in the UK can’t name a single symptom of bowel cancer, despite it being the fourth most common cancer, and it says that knowing the symptoms, and acting on them, means that bowel cancer can be diagnosed earlier when it is more treatable and curable.

Fewer than 40% of people are diagnosed with bowel cancer at the earliest stages, and the charity says “we can change this and ultimately save more lives”.

What are the symptoms of bowel cancer?

Bowel cancer is very treatable, but the earlier it’s diagnosed, the easier it is to treat, and people whose cancer is diagnosed at an early stage have a much higher chance of successful treatment than those whose cancer has become more widespread.

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If you have any symptoms, Bowel Cancer UK is encouraging people not to be embarrassed and not to ignore them, as “doctors are used to seeing lots of people with bowel problems”.

Symptoms can include:

  • Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo
  • A persistent and unexplained change in bowel habit 
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
  • A pain or lump in your tummy

Most people with these symptoms don’t have bowel cancer, and other health problems can cause similar symptoms – but if you have any of these, or if things just don’t feel right, you are advised to go to see your GP.

You may need to visit your doctor more than once if your symptoms don’t get better.

Find out more information on the Bowel Cancer UK website here.

Featured Image – Deborah James (via Instagram)