Bowelbabe Fund highlights growing bowel cancer numbers

Cases of bowel cancer are set to rise significantly by 2040, according to new analysis by the fund set up in memory of Dame Deborah James.

Fresh analysis by the Bowelbabe Fund for Cancer Research UK – set up to continue Dame Deborah’s legacy – suggests that bowel cancer cases will rise from the 42,800 which are currently diagnosed each year to 47,700 due to a growing and ageing population.

And deaths from the disease are set to increase from 16,700 each year to 19,100 a year by 2040.

Cancer Research UK said that with cases set to rise, it will continue working with Dame Deborah’s family to keep funding work to help people affected by the disease.

Dame Deborah died in June 2022 at the age of 40, five years after she was diagnosed with bowel cancer.

She used her diagnosis to raise awareness of the disease and set up the Bowelbabe Fund for Cancer Research UK, which has raised more than £13 million.

Her mother Heather James, said: “Deborah improved the lives of so many when she was alive and, thanks to the ongoing generosity of the Fund’s supporters, she will keep making a difference to the lives of many more for years to come. That is a true legacy.

“We are beyond grateful to everyone that has donated, fundraised or helped to spread vital cancer awareness and know that together we have made her proud.

“And as growing numbers of people will be diagnosed with bowel cancer in the years to come, continuing her work remains every bit as vital today as when she was first diagnosed.”

Dame Deborah James with her posthumously published book
Dame Deborah James with her posthumously published book (PA)

Cancer Research UK said that £10 million of the money raised has been committed to support seven bowel cancer projects including research examining bowel cancer in younger people; blood tests to detect the earliest signs of cancer and understanding how bowel cancer spreads as well as a new, advanced interventional radiology X-Ray machine at The Royal Marsden.

The money also funds awareness roadshows to help people learn about the disease and recognise signs and symptoms.

Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK said: “We’re honoured that Deborah entrusted us with keeping her legacy alive by raising money to support the pioneering research and brilliant awareness activity that she was so passionate about.

“With bowel cancer cases set to rise, we’ll continue working together with her family to keep funding work that will make the most difference for people affected by cancer and their loved ones.”

One patient described how Dame Deborah inspired her by sharing her cancer journey.

Ellie Wilcock, a 27-year-old content manager from Peterborough, was 25 when she was diagnosed with bowel cancer.

“I remember being in the midst of my treatment whilst following Deborah’s story,” she said.

“Cancer for me felt like this new and scary world that I’d been plunged head-first into. It was scary and unfamiliar to me, filled with doctors, hospital gowns and a cocktail of tests and medication.

“It was Deborah that made all of this ‘new world’ feel human. Deborah, to me, was proof that you really can live with cancer.

“She was this beacon of hope who was truly empowering and inspiring, this positivity continues to shine with her legacy.”

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