‘Dame Deborah effect’ sees bowel cancer checks increase tenfold

·2 min read
Dame Deborah - Paul Grover
Dame Deborah - Paul Grover

NHS England has praised the “Dame Deborah James effect” after visits to its bowel cancer guidance increased tenfold following her death.

People checking symptoms of bowel cancer on the NHS England website increased from 2,000 to 23,274 on Wednesday this week, compared to the day before.

Dame Deborah, who was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016, died on Tuesday after receiving end-of-life care at home.

The 40-year-old mother-of-two, who was known as Bowel Babe, launched the You, Me and The Big C podcast in 2018 alongside Lauren Mahon and Rachel Bland.

Amanda Pritchard, the NHS chief executive, praised Dame Deborah for her work which has led to thousands of people checking their symptoms.

Dame Deborah
Dame Deborah

“Dame Deborah James is an inspiration to us all – her death this week has touched the nation,” she said.

“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.”

Ms Pritchard also encouraged people to not be “prudish about poo” and to get checked out if they have worrying symptoms.

Symptoms of bowel cancer include: changes in bowel habits, abdominal pain that persists for more than a few days, unexpected weight loss and fatigue.

Sajid Javid said Dame Deborah has “changed the conversation” around cancer and left an “incredible legacy”.

“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,” the Health Secretary said.

“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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