News that BBC journalist Jeremy Bowen has bowel cancer has led to almost triple the number of visits to an NHS information website.
Bowen, the BBC’s Middle East editor, revealed on Monday that he has had surgery to remove a cancerous tumour and is undergoing chemotherapy.
The 59-year-old said he was diagnosed with the disease in October after suffering “funny pains” in his leg and back.
The news prompted more people to search for bowel cancer online, with the NHS’s bowel cancer information page receiving 4,735 visits on Monday, up from 1,639 visits over the previous 24 hours and more than double last year’s average of 1,816 daily page views.
Celia Ingham-Clark, medical director for clinical effectiveness at NHS England and a leading bowel specialist, thanked the journalist as she spoke about the “Bowen bounce”.
She added: “It’s vital to get worrying symptoms checked out as soon as possible so something serious can be ruled out, or people can be referred for testing and treatment.
“As a nation we need to stop being so prudish about poo. How often someone goes and consistency, or finding blood in poo, can be an early indicator that something isn’t right.
“Our trips to the toilet can give vital clues to our health which shouldn’t be ignored.”
Bowen said: “I spoke out to encourage people to get tested. You can be cured of bowel cancer if you catch it early. Don’t be embarrassed, ask your doctor.”
Deborah Alsina, chief executive of Bowel Cancer UK, said: “We are incredibly grateful to our patron Jeremy Bowen for speaking so openly about his bowel cancer diagnosis.
“It’s only by talking publicly about this disease and raising awareness that we can encourage more people to take action if they have concerns.
“Every year in the UK, nearly 42,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer, making it the UK’s second biggest cancer killer.
“Being aware of the symptoms and visiting your GP if things don’t feel right can help increase chances of an early diagnosis.
“Your doctor sees people with bowel concerns every day so there is nothing to be embarrassed about. It could save your life.
“It is also important that people without symptoms take part in the NHS bowel cancer screening programme when invited to do so as this provides the best chance of an early diagnosis.”