George Alagiah's death prompts surge in searches for bowel cancer screening

NHS website visits increased by 243% last week

Newsreader George Alagiah at Buckingham Palace after collecting his OBE from the queen in 2008. PA
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Searches for advice on bowel cancer screening have significantly increased following the death of TV news presenter George Alagiah.

Visits to the “bowel cancer screening” page on the NHS website last week saw a 243 per cent increase compared to the week before, NHS England said.

The day it was announced that the presenter had died aged 67 there were over 11,000 visits to the pages.

He was first diagnosed with stage four, or advanced, bowel cancer in 2014.

A top cancer doctor said that the news of Alagiah’s death “has made many of us reflect on our own health”.

“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,” said Prof Peter Johnson, NHS England’s national clinical director for cancer.

“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.”

Prof Johnson urged people to come forward for checks, particularly if they have blood in their stool, a change in bowel habits such as needing to go more often or suffering the runs, or pain and bloating. These are the three main symptoms of bowel cancer.

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

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

More than nine out of 10 cases of bowel cancer develop in older adults over the age of 50, and nearly six in 10 are in people aged 70 or older.

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

“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.”

Updated: July 31, 2023, 5:14 PM