George Alagiah’s first bowel cancer symptoms as the BBC newsreader dies aged 67

George Alagiah discusses battling cancer in 2020

Journalist George Alagiah has died at the age of 67, his agent confirmed today (July 24), after being diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2014.

The BBC newsreader learned he had the disease after discovering blood in his stools, a common sign.

Mr Alagiah later underwent 17 rounds of chemotherapy and five operations to treat the disease, which had spread to the liver and lymph nodes.

Bowel cancer is the second most deadly form of cancer in the UK, accounting for 10 percent of all cancer deaths.

It is also the fourth most commonly diagnosed form of the disease, with more than 40,000 new cases in the UK annually.

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In 2018, Mr Alagiah said his cancer was caught “very late” and may have been detected earlier if England carried out a similar screening process to Scotland.

In Scotland, men and women are automatically offered screening for bowel cancer every two years from the age of 50. In England, people are offered screening from the age of 60.

Speaking to the Sunday Times, Mr Alagiah, who lived in London, said: “Had they had screening at 50, like they do in Scotland…I would have been screened at least three times and possibly four by the time I was 58.

“We know that if you catch bowel cancer early, survival rates are tremendous. I have thought: why have the Scots got it and we don’t?”

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Earlier this year, Mr Alagiah backed a NHS screening programme which is expanding to make it available to everyone aged 50 to 59.

This is happening gradually over four years and started in April 2021.

In a statement released today, BBC director-general Tim Davie, said: “George was one of the best and bravest journalists of his generation who reported fearlessly from across the world as well as presenting the news flawlessly.”

“He was more than just an outstanding journalist, audiences could sense his kindness, empathy and wonderful humanity. He was loved by all and we will miss him enormously.”

Symptoms of bowel cancer

According to the NHS, the main symptoms of bowel cancer include:

  • Changes in your poo, such as having softer poo, diarrhoea or constipation that is not usual for you
  • Needing to poo more or less often than usual for you
  • Blood in your poo, which may look red or black
  • Bleeding from your bottom
  • Often feeling like you need to poo, even if you’ve just been to the toilet
  • Tummy pain
  • Bloating
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Feeling very tired for no reason.

The health body recommends seeing your GP if you experience these symptoms for three weeks or longer.

If your poo is black or dark red, or you have bloody diarrhoea you should call 111 for urgent advice.

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