Dame Deborah James’ husband urges Brits to take NHS bowel cancer home tests

Dame Deborah James’ husband Sebastien Bowen has urged people to get involved in the NHS’ newly introduced free bowel cancer screening programme.

His wife, who died in June of incurable bowel cancer aged 40, set up a fundraiser called Bowel Babe, raising £7 million for Cancer Research UK.

James was a journalist, podcast host, and charity campaigner from London. She was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016 and went on to host the You, Me and the Big C podcast on BBC Radio 5 Live about her journey with her illness.

Determined to continue his wife’s campaign message, Bowen told The Sun: “I know Deborah would be telling anyone that would listen: ‘Check your poo’.”

His plea comes as the NHS launches a new drive to encourage more people to take part in the free bowel cancer screening programme. The screening age has recently been lowered from 60 to 50 years old.

As part of the initiative, the NHS is automatically sending out half a million faecal immunochemical test (FIT) kits by post every month.

Bowen, who is father to the couple’s two children, Hugo, 15, and Eloise, 13, said the family misses Deborah’s “incredible energy and passion to live life to the full” eight months after her death.

He added: “Deborah knew early diagnosis saves lives and that giving more people access to tests would do that.

Dame Deborah James raised £7.5 million for Cancer Research UK as part of her Bowel Babe initiative (Instagram/@bowelbabe)
Dame Deborah James raised £7.5 million for Cancer Research UK as part of her Bowel Babe initiative (Instagram/@bowelbabe)

“The sooner you are diagnosed the more likely it is that treatment will be successful.

“Deborah didn’t get that chance. By the time her cancer was caught, it had already spread.”

Bowen said that lots of people either “put off” taking the tests or don’t send back their stool samples altogether.

“So if you get sent a test, don’t put it off, it could be the difference between life and death.”

He added: “I know how much it meant to Deborah to see these tests being sent to people in their 50s before she died.

“Do it for Deborah, check your poo.”

According to Cancer Research UK, bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in the UK, accounting for 10 per cent of all cancer deaths.

The cause of bowel cancer is unknown but research has shown several factors may make you more likely to develop it, according to the NHS.

Research suggests that high consumption of red or processed meat can increase your risk of developing bowel cancer. Smoking, excessive drinking and inactivity are also linked to the illness.

As part of the NHS’s FIT test, a small stick provided helps collect a tiny sample of faeces from the toilet, which is then sent back to a lab in a sample bottle.

The stool sample is checked for traces of blood that are invisible to the naked eye, which can be an early sign that something is wrong.