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Red flag symptoms that led to Deborah James discovering she had bowel cancer
Deborah James' fund has now raised more than £3m for clinical trials and personalised medicine for cancer patients
The red flag bowel cancer symptoms that led to Deborah James discovering the disease
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5 red flag bowel cancer symptoms led Deborah James to discovering she had the disease

By Mark Smith & Matthew Bunn

There has been an outpouring of sadness for Deborah James who has now raised more than £3.5m after confirming she is receiving end-of-life care for bowel cancer. The teacher has sought to raise awareness and understanding of the illness since she was diagnosed in 2016, through writing, broadcasting and campaigning.

The former deputy headteacher, who has presented the BBC Podcast 'You, Me and the Big C', wrote in her blog in January 2017 of the symptoms that led her to tell a doctor she might have bowel cancer. She was 35 at the time, but despite being a vegetarian, a non smoker and not being overweight, she was diagnosed with Stage 3 bowel cancer, Wales Online reports.

Deborah, who wrote a best-selling book called 'F*** you cancer', said she was initially told by her GP she must have IBS because her blood tests and stool sample came back fine. "And yet I was still losing weight, passing blood, going what felt like 100 times per day and feeling shattered. I knew there was something wrong with me," she wrote.

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It was only when she paid privately for a colonoscopy that her "ugly 5.5cm cancerous, ulcerated tumour" was discovered and her treatment began. Deborah, a mum of two children, Hugo and Eloise, who were 9 and 7 when she was first diagnosed, said that she had first noticed a change in her bowel habits two years earlier but was told that she was likely to be suffering from irritable bowel syndrome.

Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK and the second biggest cancer killer. It affects the large bowel, which is made up of the colon and the rectum, and mainly develops from pre-cancerous growths called polyps. Nearly 43,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year in the UK and there are currently around 268,000 people living with it in the UK today.

Deborah's symptoms were among the most common signs of bowel cancer.

What are the main symptoms of bowel cancer?

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 one or more of these, or if things just don't feel right, go to see your GP.

Sometimes a tumour can block the bowel, causing sudden strong pains in the stomach area, bloating and feeling or being sick. This is called a bowel obstruction. You may also be unable to empty your bowels or pass wind. If you think you have a blocked bowel, see your GP straight away or go to a hospital accident and emergency department.

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Dive Deeper:
Red flag symptoms that led to Deborah James discovering she had bowel cancer
Deborah James' fund has now raised more than £3m for clinical trials and personalised medicine for cancer patients
The red flag bowel cancer symptoms that led to Deborah James discovering the disease
Deborah James' Bowelbabe fund has now raised more than £3.5m for clinical trials and personalised medicine for cancer patients
Red flag bowel cancer symptoms that led to Deborah James' diagnosis
The Bowelbabe fund has now raised more than £4m for clinical trials and personalised medicine for cancer patients
Deborah James shares 'red flag' symptoms of bowel cancer she experienced before diagnosis
Deborah James has been honoured with a damehood for her charitable work for cancer research after being diagnosed with bowel…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
The key cancer symptoms that led to Deborah James discovering her illness
Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK and the second biggest cancer killer
BBC's Deborah James shares the 'signs' of bowel cancer she experienced before diagnosis
The 40-year-old, who is now receiving end-of-life care, was diagnosed with a severe case of bowel cancer in 2016, and…
Get all your news in one place