All M&S own-brand toilet roll packaging now features bowel cancer symptoms to encourage customers to contact their doctor if things don’t feel right.
Alongside a Bowel Cancer UK symptoms infographic, a QR code on the packaging redirects customers to the charity’s website to find out more about symptoms and the help available.
The retailer announced earlier this year it was teaming up with Bowel Cancer UK to raise awareness of symptoms, with plans to add symptoms onto toilet roll packaging and signage into customer and colleague toilets – which was installed across stores and support centres in June. The retailer has also made a £50,000 donation to support the charity’s lifesaving work.
It’s hoped by adding symptoms, lives could be saved through early detection. Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK and the second biggest cancer killer. Nearly 43,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year in the UK however the disease is treatable and curable, especially if diagnosed early.1
The idea originated from M&S Clothing and Home colleague Cara Hoofe, who was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer in 2016 when 32 years old. She was inspired to put forward the idea by the amazing fundraising and campaigning efforts of BowelBabe Deborah James and submitted it to M&S’ Straight to Stuart colleague suggestion scheme.
The scheme encourages colleagues to share ideas directly with CEO Stuart Machin, with a quick response guaranteed. Stuart loved the suggestion and responded quickly to give the idea his first ever YES as the new CEO, saying:
“This is exactly what Straight to Stuart is about, harnessing simple ideas from colleagues that have a massive impact. Most importantly, this is a real opportunity to raise awareness across the UK and make a difference – the more people we reach, the more lives we can potentially help save.”
Since then, almost all UK food retailers have joined M&S in this important initiative – helping spread the message to more people all over the UK and potentially saving countless lives.
Cara Hoofe, M&S Clothing and Home team, comments: “It’s been surreal to see my idea put into action so quickly and to now be on the shelves across M&S stores. Deborah James inspired me to suggest the idea, and it’s upsetting she’s not here to see the final product but she continues to be a huge inspiration to me and other young people diagnosed with bowel cancer.
“I’m extremely proud to play my part in removing some of the embarrassment around bowel cancer and normalise speaking to your doctor about symptoms or if something just doesn’t feel right. Early detection is so important, and I hope we can get people talking and help to save lives.”
Genevieve Edwards, Chief Executive at Bowel Cancer UK, comments: “This is not just any loo roll, this is M&S’s own brand loo roll with bowel cancer symptoms on the packaging. And we’re so excited that they’re on the shelves.
“At the heart of all this is our mission to stop people dying from bowel cancer. It’s the UK’s second biggest cancer killer – but it doesn’t have to be. Bowel cancer is treatable and curable especially if diagnosed early. Part of the problem is low awareness of the red flag symptoms of bowel cancer, like changes in bowel habit, bleeding from your bottom and blood in your poo, that should prompt people to contact their GP straight away.
“We think Cara is an absolute superstar and want to thank her for everything she’s done to make this happen. She’s a longstanding supporter of ours and has shared her story dozens of times to help raise awareness of bowel cancer. We also want to thank the team at Marks & Spencer who have inspired so many retailers and loo roll brands to follow their lead through our #GetOnARoll campaign.”
Earlier this year, M&S also extended its partnership with Check4Cancer to include screening support for colleagues with a higher risk of bowel cancer. All M&S colleagues have access to an online risk assessment tool, with those at ‘higher risk’ of bowel, breast, cervical, lung and prostate cancer eligible for a personalised screening programme.