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25th Jun, 2022

Bowel cancer: Smashing taboos saves lives, says Dame Deborah James

Solihull Editorial 17th Jun, 2022

Dame Deborah James has encouraged “smashing taboos” associated with bowel movements as it may “save lives” by helping people recognise bowel cancer symptoms.

The 40-year-old podcaster, known as Bowel Babe online, was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016, and in May revealed she was receiving end of life care at her home.

Speaking on an episode of E4’s Embarrassing Bodies, which was recorded while Dame Deborah was still in hospital, she encouraged viewers to “not be embarrassed about it,” and recognise the importance of monitoring their bowel movements.

She said:

“We all poo, our favourite celebrities poo! Let’s kind of break down smash those taboos because quite frankly, that is going to save lives. Let’s spread the word.”

Speaking to Embarrassing Bodies presenter Doctor Tosin, Dame Deborah recalled her experience with being diagnosed with bowel cancer.

“I had this image of bowel cancer as an old man’s disease, which I now know is absolutely not the case,” she said.

“Actually, unfortunately, I’ve met so many young people. It’s one of the largest rising cancers under 50. It was quite shocking actually. I think it was the last thing that I thought it would be.”

When asked about her symptoms by Doctor Tosin, Dame Deborah explained:

“The biggest thing that I had was a change of bowel habits.

“I started going to the poo – we need to say that – eight times a day. And I used to be once a day kind of girl.

“Then I started getting really tired. I remember drinking loads of cups of coffee just to try to keep myself awake.

“Then I started losing loads of weight and I started pooing blood. For me it was the combination of these changes that led to me having a gut instinct that something wasn’t right.”

Since her diagnosis, Dame Deborah has kept her Instagram followers up to date with her treatments to raise awareness about the signs of bowel cancer.

She has so far raised more than £6.6 million for Cancer Research UK, Bowel Cancer UK and the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity through her Bowelbabe fund on JustGiving.

Last month, Dame Deborah announced she had written another book, titled How To Live When You Could Be Dead, documenting what she has learned about having a positive mindset when faced with life’s biggest challenges.

Despite not being due to be published until August, the book shot to number one on the Amazon list through pre-orders, with her royalties going towards her Bowelbabe Fund.

The podcast host followed this up by releasing a clothing line with In The Style, with 100% of the profits going towards the cancer charity.

She was also recently honoured with a damehood by Prince William at her home for her “tireless campaigning” efforts.

To donate to the Bowelbabe Fund for Cancer Research UK click here


The symptoms of bowel cancer 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. Other health problems can cause similar symptoms.

But if you have any of these, or if things just don’t feel right, go to see your GP. You may need to visit your doctor more than once if your symptoms don’t get better.

For more information on bowel cancer click here.

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