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In the UK, someone dies of bowel cancer every 30 minutes and it is the 4th most common cancer.
However, a recent survey revealed that 4 in 10 people were unable to name a single bowel cancer symptom. This raises the concern that people won’t seek medical attention until it is too late, or even that their bowel cancer diagnosis will be missed.
One individual who spent several years campaigning tirelessly to raise awareness of the symptoms of bowel cancer was Dame Deborah James DBE, also known as Bowelbabe.
A headteacher from Surrey, Deborah noticed changes in her bowel habits in 2016. Worried that she had bowel cancer, she went to the GP a total of 3 times in 6 months but spoke of being ‘laughed at’ and told that her symptoms were more likely to be IBS or haemorrhoids.
After experiencing unexplained weight loss and finding blood in her poo, Deborah went for a private colonoscopy and was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer in 2016, aged just 35.
Despite the shock of her incurable cancer diagnosis, Deborah was determined that the taboo around bowel cancer should be broken down, and that other people should know the signs.
She set up a Bowelbabe blog, and presented the popular BBC podcast series ‘You, Me and the Big C’ with fellow cancer patients Lauren Mahon and Rachel Bland.
Sadly, in May 2022 Deborah announced that she was no longer receiving active cancer treatment and was moved to end-of-life hospice care at home. However, she continued to campaign for bowel cancer awareness, and set up the Bowelbabe fund to raise money for cancer research and treatment.
Reaching £3.5m of donations in the fund’s first week, Deborah was made a Dame by William, Prince of Wales for her tireless efforts.
Although Deborah sadly died in June 2022, it was recently announced that the Bowelbabe fund has raised £11.3m for cancer research, with the money already being used to pay for advanced X-ray machines and a study into precise treatment that will prevent bowel cancer spreading.
“Deborah James was – and still is – a true inspiration. Her efforts to make people aware of the signs of bowel cancer have undoubtedly saved thousands of lives. From my own personal experience losing my lovely mum to bowel cancer, I know how important it is that the symptoms are recognised, not just by the person experiencing them but by medical professionals. We cannot let a lack of awareness, diagnosis delays or missed diagnoses claim any more lives.
“The Bowelbabe fund and the resulting research and treatment opportunities offer a point of light in what can be a dark tunnel for bowel cancer patients and their loved ones. But of course, action begins at home: as Deborah James said, don’t forget to check your poo and seek medical attention if anything is out of the ordinary.”
Novum Law’s specialist team of medical negligence solicitors have many years of experience helping people who have had a delayed cancer diagnosis. If you or a family member has been affected, contact our team who can help on a ‘No Win, No Fee’ basis. To find out more, contact us on Freephone: 0800 884 0777, email email@example.com or complete our online enquiry form.
You can donate to the Bowelbabe fund here.
Image credit: Deborah James Instagram
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