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The bowel cancer signs to look for as campaigner Deborah James receives Damehood and Bowelbabe fund tips £4 million

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Since her diagnosis at the age of 35, Deborah James has dedicated her time between treatment to making people more aware of the signs of bowel cancer.

The mum-of-two and former headteacher, who told her 500,000 Instagram followers in a heartbreaking post last week that she's now receiving hospice at home care, was made a Dame on Thursday for her tireless campaigning.

The podcast host of You, Me and The Big C has also raised more than £4m in only a few days as she tries – as she explained in her own words – to give 'more Deborahs more time' while spending the time she has left with her family.

Her work to raise awareness of the disease, and to change the conversation around bowel cancer and living with the disease, has been praised by everyone from the Prime Minister Boris Johnson to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

In announcing she was now stopping active cancer treatment, Deborah wrote: "I know we have left no stone unturned. But even with all the innovative cancer drugs in the world or some magic new breakthrough, my body just can’t continue anymore."

Deborah James. Photo: Alamy / PA.
Deborah James. Photo: Alamy / PA.

Bowel cancer, says the NHS, is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in England, but its symptoms can be subtle and may not necessarily make someone with the disease feel ill.

So what are the signs and symptoms you should be aware of and when should you seek further medical advice?

1. A change in bowel habits

Going to the toilet more often, and possibly with stomach pain, can be a sign things aren't quite right. Stools may also be looser and you might have more of an urgency to go to the toilet.

2. Blood

Blood in your poo should always be investigated regardless of whether it is a bright red or darker colour. While the symptom could turn out to be haemorrhoids (piles), if you notice blood is appearing in your poo you should make an appointment with your doctor.

3. Stomach pain

Abdominal pain, discomfort or bloating that is brought on by eating should not be ignored. Sometimes this will also result in a reduction in the amount of food that you're able to eat alongside weight loss.

4. Constipation

While a change or increase in the amount of times you visit the toilet can be a red flag, so can going to the bathroom less often. While constipation, says the NHS, is rarely caused by a serious bowel condition anyone experiencing discomfort or who is passing harder stools, less often, should have the problem checked out.

Do you know the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer to look out for? Image: Stock photo.
Do you know the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer to look out for? Image: Stock photo.

While most people who experience the symptoms above do not have bowel cancer, medics insist the condition should be ruled out as part of tests.

Around 90 per cent of people, says the NHS, with bowel cancer will report having experienced at least one of the signs above and so if you have any of the symptoms of bowel cancer for three weeks or more it is crucial that you speak to your GP.

To learn more click here.

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