Dame Deborah James: The signs of Bowel Cancer

By Blackwater Law

Dame Deborah James has died aged 40, she was receiving end-of-life care at her home after being diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016.s

Table of Contents:

– Dame Deborah James
– Bowel cancer in the news
– Detecting Bowel Cancer
– Importance of early diagnosis
– Symptoms of Bowel Cancer

Dame Deborah James

The podcaster and campaigner raised millions for cancer research through her podcast, ‘You, Me and the Big C’, and her fund Bowelbabe. Earlier this year, she received a Damehood from Prince William for her fundraising efforts.

Since her death, the Bowelbabe fund has reached over £7m, which will go towards supporting cancer research in the UK. As well as raising money, Dame Deborah James advocated for increased education around the signs of bowel cancer.

Through her podcast and Instagram page ‘Bowelbabe,’ she provided her followers with the information needed to ensure they were checking for the signs of bowel cancer.

Toilet roll company Andrex have joined Cancer Research UK’s #GetOnARoll campaign, to encourage companies to list the tell-tale signs of bowel cancer on their products, a legacy campaigned for by Deborah.

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Bowel cancer in the news

Dame Deborah James’s death is the latest of a number of bowel cancer stories in the UK.

Just a day before Deborah’s death, Radio 1 presenter Adele Roberts revealed through her Instagram that she had been declared free from bowel cancer, after receiving treatment since October 2021.

She often spoke candidly, and openly about her experience with bowel cancer, and living with a stoma, which she nicknamed Audrey. She hoped this would help to break down the stigmas and misunderstandings surrounding a stoma bag.

Earlier this year, BBC newsreader George Alagiah also spoke about his experience with bowel cancer. He was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer back in 2014.

These stories of celebrities with bowel cancer have helped to raise a national conversation around the detection of bowel cancer, and if we are doing enough to spot it in people in their 40s and 50s.

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Detecting Bowel Cancer

In the UK, bowel cancer screening is available to everyone 60 to 74 years old. Since last year, this has been expanding to those who are in their 50s.

The NHS can provide a home stool test kit, that can detect small traces of blood. This could be a sign of bowel cancer.

Other methods of detection include:

  • Blood tests – A blood test can determine if you have an iron deficiency (anaemia), which could indicate that you are bleeding from the cancer
  • CT Scan – A CT Colonography can produce a 3D image of your bowel, which could identify potentially cancerous areas.
  • An MRI Scan can be used to detect bowel cancer, by providing detailed images of the internal organs, including the rectum.

If bowel cancer is found, it will be categorised in one of two ways.

The TNM staging system

T – Size of the tumour
N – If it has spread to nearby lymph nodes
M – Has it spread to other organs?

The Numerical system

Stage 1 – Cancer has remained in the bowel
Stage 2 – Cancer has spread beyond the muscle of the bowel
Stage 3 – Cancer has spread to lymph nodes
Stage 4 – Cancer has spread to other areas such as the liver.

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Importance of early diagnosis

According to Bowel Cancer UK, 9 in 10 people will survive bowel cancer if they are diagnosedBowel cancer infographic Bowel Cancer UK from within the early stages.

Currently, waiting times for bowel cancer tests are longer than the target in roughly half of the hospitals in the UK.

Delayed, or misdiagnosis of cancer can drastically change your survival rate and treatment options. For bowel cancer specifically, misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis could reduce your chance of surviving another 5 years after diagnosis from 90%, to just 6% in the worst cases.

If you present the tell-tale signs of bowel cancer to your doctor, they should make the necessary steps in order to ensure you receive screening or testing for bowel cancer, especially if you are in higher-risk age groups.

Making claim a for delayed diagnosis of bowel cancer can be tricky and will require legal assistance

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Symptoms of Bowel Cancer

Screening for bowel cancer is only freely available to those generally aged 50 and above, so for those younger, it is important to know the key symptoms, and potential red flags of bowel cancer.

The following could be signs of bowel cancer:

  • Bleeding or blood in stools
  • Losing weight. Although, this is a less common symptom and does not always happen with patients with bowel cancer
  • Tiredness
  • Pains or lumps in the abdomen

There are also a number of other symptoms that are more likely to be other abdominal issues, such as IBS or Chron’s disease. These can include:

  • Increased flatulence
  • Weight gain
  • Incontinence
  • Loss of bowel control
  • Back or hip pain

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Blackwater Law medical negligence solicitors acted for Mr L in a medical negligence claim in the High Court after he was misdiagnosed. The misdiagnosis meant he went on to suffer a serious stroke-causing life-limiting disability.

Get Free Initial Advice

No two cancer diagnosis claims are the same. This means you will need to speak to a specialist medical negligence solicitor about the circumstances of your bowel cancer diagnosis so that they can advise you. Blackwater Law provides free initial advice to anyone thinking about making a claim for bowel cancer misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis compensation, or anyone who is simply curious as to whether they may be eligible to claim. If we believe you may be entitled to claim compensation for bowel cancer misdiagnosis, we will agree to act for you on a no-win, no-fee basis.

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