Deborah James' final post urges people to 'check your poo' for bowel cancer - these are the symptoms to look out for

Deborah James' final message urged people to check their poo for bowel cancer, but what are the symptoms should you look for?

Deborah James: How to 'check your poo' for bowel cancer
(Image credit: David M. Benett / Contributor / Getty Images)

Deborah James had died at the age of 40 after a long struggle with bowel cancer. The star consistently told people, 'check your poo' for bowel cancer and even made this statement in her final parting message.

In a message on Instagram, Deborah James' family announce her death at the age of 40.  "We are deeply saddened to announce the death of Dame Deborah James; the most amazing wife, daughter, sister, mummy. Deborah passed away peacefully today, surrounded by her family," read the heartfelt post,

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Prince William and Kate led tributes to Dame Deborah James as many celebrities publically mourned the journalist and campaigner's passing. Many spoke about Dame Deborah's inspirational fight against cancer and her work to ensure that information about bowel cancer was shared more publicly.

The final sentences of the post about Deborah's death came directly from the journalist who became known as 'Bowel Babe' just before she passed.

"And a few final things from Deborah…" began the post which then revealed Deborah's parting message, "Find a life worth enjoying; take risks; love deeply; have no regrets; and always, always have rebellious hope. And finally, check your poo – it could just save your life."

This important message was repeated by Deborah on many occasions following her diagnosis as this is a key way to check yourself for bowel cancer.

Deborah discovered that she had bowel cancer in December 2016 after she noticed blood when going to the loo. In a blog written by Deborah for Bowel Cancer UK (opens in new tab), the journalist described her symptoms and said, "I was still losing weight, passing blood, going what felt like 100 times per day and feeling shattered."

In a different post on social media, the journalist repeated, "My first symptoms of Bowel Cancer were a change of pooing Habits. I went from a once-a-day girl, to 8 times a day with cramping. I also started to pass fresh blood (yes fresh), and yet thought it was hemorrhoids. Get to know your POO, know what’s normal for you and any changes you are worried about - please get them checked!"

So how can you check your poo for bowel cancer? And what are the signs that you need to look out for?

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How to 'check your poo' for bowel cancer - symptoms and when to get help

The NHS (opens in new tab) has listed the number of issues that can be symptoms of bowel cancer. The three main symptoms of bowel cancer are, 'a persistent change in bowel habit – pooing more often, with looser, runnier poos and sometimes tummy (abdominal) pain." 

The second is, "blood in the poo without other symptoms of piles (hemorrhoids) – this makes it unlikely the cause is hemorrhoids."  And the final symptom is, "abdominal pain, discomfort or bloating always brought on by eating."

So if you follow Deborah's advice and check your poo for bowel cancer, you are primarily checking for a change in consistency (primarily runnier stools) and blood in the feces itself and the tissue after you wipe, and in the toilet bowl. If you have rectal bleeding when you poo but you do not suffer from hemorrhoids, anal fissures, or IBS, you should go to the doctors and understand whether you are at risk of something more serious.

Laura is a news writer for woman&home who primarily covers entertainment and celebrity news. Laura dabbles in lifestyle, royal, beauty, and fashion news, and loves to cover anything and everything to do with television and film. She is also passionate about feminism and equality and loves writing about gender issues and feminist literature.


Laura loves drinking and eating and can often be found trying to get reservations at London's trendiest restaurants. When she's not wining and dining, Laura can also be found travelling, baking, and hiking with her dog.