The number of people checking bowel cancer symptoms on the NHS website increased tenfold after the death of Dame Deborah James, the health service has said.
Latest figures from the NHS show that 23,274 visits were made to NHS webpages for bowel cancer on Wednesday, up from 2,000 the day before.
On Tuesday, the family of campaigner and podcaster Deborah James confirmed she had died aged 40 after being diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016.
Dame Deborah’s frank accounts of life with bowel cancer sparked millions of pounds worth of charity donations.
In her final message, posted by her family, Dame Deborah said “and finally, check your poo – it could just save your life”.
The NHS has also urged people to not to be “prudish about poo”, warning that people are often reluctant to talk about symptoms due to embarrassment.
Bowel cancer is England’s fourth most common cancer, with around 37,000 new cases in England each year.
Symptoms of bowel cancer include:
- Unexplained fatigue
- Unexpected weight loss
- Pain in the tummy or abdominal pain, which persists for more than a few days
- Changes in bowels habits, such as pooing more often than usual/different consistency
Cancer Research UK chief executive Michelle Mitchell said the charity saw an increase of 120% to its bowel cancer information pages the day after James died, compared to the day before.
NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard 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 life-saving.
“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.”
Read more about Deborah James:
William and Kate pay tribute to ‘inspirational and unfalteringly brave’ Deborah James
Deborah James says she is ‘angry’ at being terminally ill but hopes to comfort others
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said James has “changed the national conversation around cancer”.
“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,” he added.
Dame Deborah spent her final weeks receiving end-of-life care at home with her husband, Sebastien, and their two children.