M&S inspired by Deborah James to list bowel cancer symptoms on toilet roll packs

Marks & Spencer will add information about the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer on its toilet roll packaging in a move inspired by the cancer campaigner Dame Deborah James.

The changes, which come into effect from September, are part of the retailer’s partnership with Bowel Cancer UK. M&S will also make a £50,000 donation to the charity which James, who has incurable bowel cancer, represents as a patron.

From next month, there will be new signage about bowel cancer symptoms inside stores and across support centre toilets.

Customers will be able to scan a QR code which will redirect them to Bowel Cancer UK’s website to find out more.

The idea for the packaging came from M&S employee Cara Hoofe, who had stage 4 bowel cancer diagnosed in 2016 at the age of 32. She submitted her suggestion to the chief executive, Stuart Machin.

Hoofe told the Times: “Deborah is a huge inspiration to me and so many other young people diagnosed with bowel cancer. I feel fortunate my journey since diagnosis has taken a different path but I want to give a voice to all those who can no longer use theirs to raise awareness.”

She added: “Early detection is so important and my main message to people is don’t feel embarrassed, get things checked out and speak to your doctor.”

James, 40, a former deputy headteacher, was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016. The campaigner, who has two children, has drawn praise for raising awareness of the disease with her candid posts on social media as Bowelbabe, and the podcast she co-hosts, You, Me and the Big C.

This month she announced she was being given hospice-at-home care. She has since raised more than £6.5m for Cancer Research UK and was made a dame with the Duke of Cambridge visiting her at home to confer the honour.

On a recent visit to the Royal Marsden hospital in west London, where James was treated, he said: “I love Deborah, she’s fantastic. Her legacy is massive.”

Meanwhile, James’s fashion collaboration with In the Style has raised £500,000 for the Bowelbabe Fund for Cancer Research UK in just one week. All profits from the collection will go to charity.

She said the partnership had “kept me going and taken me away from cancer”.

Last week it was revealed pre-orders of her second book had soared within days of it becoming available. The publication of How to Live When You Could Be Dead was brought forward this week and is already topping the Amazon UK bestseller’s list.

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Bowel Cancer UK, together with M&S, is calling on other retailers to introduce updated toilet roll packaging, to help raise awareness of symptoms.

Genevieve Edwards, the chief executive of Bowel Cancer UK, said: “This brilliant initiative will help millions of people across the UK know what to look out for and will undoubtedly save lives. We’re incredibly grateful to Cara and the team for their commitment to making this happen.”