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Tom Hardy

5 inspirational campaigners who raised awareness of bowel cancer

April is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month which not only provides an opportunity to raise awareness of the disease but also crucial funds that help support the work of bowel cancer charities.

Image: Tom Hardy is patron of Bowel Cancer UK | Jaguar PS /

Did you know bowel cancer is one of the most common cancers in the UK with almost 43,000 people diagnosed with it every year? Bowel cancer includes colon and rectal cancer and whilst it mostly affects those over the age of 60, it can be diagnosed in younger people.

The UK’s leading bowel cancer charity, Bowel Cancer UK, recently joined forces with ITV’s Celebrity Big Brother to get people talking about their bowel health. Over the years, several high-profile individuals have looked to spark a similar conversation in support of the cause.

Here are five campaigners who’ve raised awareness of bowel cancer:

1. Dame Deborah James

At the age of 35, Deborah James was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer in 2016. Shortly after, she began a blog detailing her journey and it wasn’t long before her words were reaching millions of people across the world.

A best-selling book followed, F*** You Cancer, and a weekly column on The Sun online. She then released a hugely popular BBC podcast called You, Me & the Big C, which continued to spread awareness of bowel cancer.

In 2021, she became a patron of Bowel Cancer UK and according to the charity, ‘She has, without doubt, saved lives because of her openness and honesty about her own diagnosis and experiences, which has forever changed the way people talk about bowel cancer.’

In May 2022, Deborah was awarded a Damehood before sadly passing away a month later.

2. Lynn Faulds Wood

Scottish television presenter and journalist Lynn Faulds Wood co-hosted, alongside her husband, the consumer investigative journalism programme Watchdog on BBC One from 1985 to 1993.

In 1991, Lynn was diagnosed with stage three bowel cancer and five years after surgery she was given the all-clear. At the time of her diagnosis, only a third of people survived stage three bowel cancer, so Lynn dedicated the rest of her life to not only raising awareness but also campaigning for better diagnosis and treatment.

In 1993, Lynn made a documentary entitled Doctor Knows Best?, which was a part of ITV’s World in Action series. In the program, she uncovered that the symptoms of bowel cancer were different from those taught in medical school, which led to new guidance being published by the government.

Lynn produced another documentary for the World in Action series three years later called Bobby More & Me, in which she interviewed Stephanie, the widow of World Cup-winning footballer Bobby Moore.

Stephanie revealed that Bobby had been misdiagnosed by doctors for four years with irritable bowel syndrome. The treatment he received was incorrect and he died aged 51 due to bowel cancer. After the show was broadcast, nearly 30,000 letters were sent in response.

A series on cervical cancer in 1995 called The Lady Killers led to Lynn being named the medical broadcaster of the year by the British Medical Association. Two years later, she founded the charity Beating Bowel Cancer and in 2002 she co-founded the European Cancer Patient Coalition, which helped get cancer on the official European Agenda.

Lynn passed away from a stroke in 2020 at the age of 72.

3. Stephen Sutton

At the age of just 15, teenager Stephen Sutton was diagnosed with stage three bowel cancer. Two years later, he was told the disease was incurable and from that moment onwards, Stephen decided to make a difference with what time he had left.

He began raising money for the Teenage Cancer Trust and started writing his own blog in early 2013 entitled Stephen’s Story. Documenting his battle with cancer and his journey through the final months of his life, his blog became a source of inspiration for millions of people.

Ticking off a bucket list of things to do, his uplifting story caught the hearts and minds of the nation. His initial target of raising £10,000 for the Teenage Cancer Trust was quickly surpassed and by the beginning of 2014 had already been adjusted to £1 million.

Stephen passed away in May 2014 at the age of just 19 and was posthumously awarded an MBE, as well as an honorary doctorate from Coventry University. On the second anniversary of his death, £5.5 million had been raised in his memory.

4. Tom Hardy

In 2012, Oscar-nominated English actor Tom Hardy became a patron of Bowel Cancer UK after attending the charity’s 25th anniversary celebration at number 10 Downing Street. Speaking about his involvement with the charity, Hardy said, ‘I'd like to help the charity to increase awareness and help stop people dying needlessly from the disease.’

In the years since, Hardy has attended charity days on behalf of Bowel Cancer UK, including the BGC Charity Day which honours colleagues who were killed during the September 11 attacks in New York. By representing the charity, Hardy helped raise funds for the cause to support the ‘charity’s research and lifesaving work to stop bowel cancer’.

In 2015, Hardy supported Bowel Cancer UK’s ‘Decembeard’ campaign. The Mad Max star urged men to put the razor down for the month of December to help raise funds for the charity.

5. Tommy Walsh and Alan Titchmarsh

In 2023, gardener Alan Titchmarsh and TV personality Tommy Walsh supported the NHS campaign to get the nation talking about bowel cancer screening.

According to the NHS, bowel cancer survivor rates are nine times higher when the disease is caught early on, however, one out of five people said they wouldn’t complete a screening test ‘because they would be too embarrassed to look at their poo’.

The first-of-its-kind cancer awareness campaign saw Titchmarsh and Walsh star in a social media video to help dispel the stigma surrounding the test. The pair urged those in the public who had received an NHS bowel cancer screening test, to complete it and send it back to ensure the disease could be caught at the earliest stage.

Learn more about the symptoms of bowel cancer