There were ten times as many people checking for bowel cancer symptoms online immediately after Dame Deborah James died, the NHS has said.
More than 23,000 visits were made to NHS bowel cancer websites on Wednesday, up from 2,000 the day before.
Dame Deborah, a former deputy director, who raised £7million for cancer research through her Bowelbabe fund, died aged 40 on Tuesday. She has documented her illness on Instagram and the BBC podcast You, Me and the Big C.
His last words to the public included a message asking people to ‘check your poo – it just might save your life’. NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said there was no doubt James’ message had been “life-saving”.
Following news of James’s death, 23,274 visits were made to NHS bowel cancer websites, where symptoms listed include changes in bowel habits, persistent abdominal pain, loss of unexpected weight and unexplained fatigue. Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in England, with around 37,000 new cases each year.
Paying tribute, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Dame Deborah James left an incredible legacy and changed the national conversation on cancer. These numbers reflect the powerful and life-saving impact she has had – inspiring countless people across the country to get informed, get vetted and speak out.
“Having lost my father to bowel cancer, I know how devastating this disease can be, and we must continue to break down the barriers around what she called the ‘C word’ – encouraging people to have open and honest discussions.”
He added: “Our next 10-year cancer plan will build on this with a focus on early diagnosis to help save more lives.”
Pritchard said James was “an inspiration to us all – his death this week has touched the nation. People often don’t feel comfortable talking about their cancer diagnosis and treatment, but Deborah speaking courageously about her personal journey has inspired thousands more people to get checked out for symptoms. There’s no doubt about it – it saved lives.
“We must now continue Deborah’s fantastic work in her honor… Talking about cancer saves lives. So our message to you is – don’t be prude about poo; get checked out if you have any worrying signs or symptoms.
Dame Cally Palmer, National Cancer Director at NHS England, said: “Early detection of bowel cancer saves lives and Deborah has made a difference for so many with her extraordinary courage and spirit. She did the unthinkable and by getting people to talk about this disease, she was an inspiration to so many.
“We have to continue what Deborah started.”