George Alagiah: Visits to NHS England bowel cancer screening site soar after BBC presenter's death

George Alagiah pictured in 2008 collecting his OBE. Credit: PA

Thousands of people have sought advice on bowel cancer screening following the death of TV news presenter George Alagiah, new figures show.

NHS England, which runs the website, said that visits to the ‘bowel cancer screening’ page on the NHS website last week saw a 243% increase compared to the week before.

It said that there were over 11,000 visits on Monday – the day it was announced that the presenter had died aged 67.

He was first diagnosed with stage four (advanced) bowel cancer in 2014.

George Alagiah was first diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2014. Credit: Jeff Overs/BBC/PA

Commenting on the surge in visits to the website, a top cancer doctor said that the news of Alagiah’s death “has made many of us reflect on our own health”.

Professor Peter Johnson, NHS England’s national clinical director for cancer, said: “The news of George Alagiah’s death has affected thousands across the country who will have watched him on the television, and has made many of us reflect on our own health.

“These increased visits to NHS England web pages are a positive sign, because educating yourself about what symptoms and risk factors there are for bowel cancer is extremely important, as the earlier it is found, the more treatable it is.

“It’s important to be aware of the symptoms of bowel cancer – so if you have noticed any changes such as blood in your poo, a change in bowel habits or pain and bloating – please do come forward for checks as soon as possible.”

Dr Lisa Wilde, director of research and external affairs at Bowel Cancer UK, said: “We have seen a spike in the number of people visiting, with thousands more people seeking information about the disease in recent days.

“There has also been more people affected by bowel cancer posting on our forum and contacting our Ask the Nurse service.

“Almost 43,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year in the UK.

“When George Alagiah was diagnosed in 2014, he spoke openly about the condition and the importance of screening.

“Taking part in bowel cancer screening can often find the cancer before symptoms develop, when it’s much easier to treat.

“Quite simply, screening could save your life and we would encourage everyone who is eligible to complete the test when they receive it.

The three main symptoms of bowel cancer are having persistent blood in the stools, an ongoing change in bowel habit (such as needing to go more often or suffering the runs) and persistent lower abdominal pain, bloating or discomfort.

A loss of appetite may also occur, or somebody may suffer significant, unintentional weight loss.

Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK and leads to around 16,800 deaths every year.

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