Marks and Spencer has announced it will add information about the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer on its toilet roll packaging in a move inspired by cancer campaigner Dame Deborah James.
The changes will come into effect nationwide from September as part of the supermarket’s partnership with Bowel Cancer UK.
Consumers will be able to scan a QR code to learn more about the illness and what to look out for on Bowel Cancer UK’s website.
And from next month, M&S shoppers and staff will be able to spot new signage about bowel cancer symptoms in-store and across support centre toilets.
M&S said the move is designed to help save lives by aiding early detection – and hopes the collaboration will raise awareness of the disease among its 30 million customers.
Some 43,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year in the UK, but the disease is treatable and curable especially if diagnosed early.
It comes after Dame Deborah, who is known as Bowel Babe online after campaigning to raise awareness of bowel cancer, revealed two weeks ago that she was receiving end-of-life care at her family home in Surrey.
The 40-year-old was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016 and has since then kept her more than 800,000 Instagram followers up to date with her treatment, with candid posts about her progress and diagnosis.
However, she remains focused on raising awareness of bowel cancer, and was recently honoured with a damehood by the Duke of Cambridge at her home for her “tireless campaigning” efforts.
M&S Clothing and Home colleague Cara Hoofe came up with the idea for the collaboration, and submitted it to M&S’s colleague suggestion scheme.
She said: “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.
“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.
“I’ve worked at M&S for over ten years and am so happy they are putting my idea into action and so quickly – I’m hoping other companies will consider joining us.”
Together with M&S, Bowel Cancer UK is calling on other retailers to also introduce updated toilet roll packaging, to help raise awareness of symptoms among as many people as possible.
Stuart Machin, CEO at M&S, said: “It’s hugely rewarding to be able to put such a fantastic suggestion into action in my first week in the job. Cara’s idea will undoubtedly help to save lives and by working with Bowel Cancer UK we can get the message out there to check for symptoms and if you have any concerns, to contact your doctor.
Genevieve Edwards, 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.”
Dame Deborah, the presenter of the BBC podcast You, Me And The Big C, revealed last week that she had completed her second book, How To Live When You Could Be Dead, which will be published on 18 August.
The book has already shot to number one on the Amazon list through pre-orders.