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  • Partnership with Bowel Cancer UK will see symptoms on toilet roll packaging, signage in M&S stores and support centres and £50,000 donation to charity’s lifesaving work 

  • Idea comes from M&S’ Straight to Stuart scheme, launched today on Stuart Machin’s first day as new CEO and submitted by colleague with personal experience of bowel cancer  

  • Retailer calls on competitors to also get involved to help save as many lives as possible  

M&S is adding bowel cancer signs and symptoms onto its toilet roll packaging to raise awareness of the disease among its 30million customers. 

The retailer’s partnership with Bowel Cancer UK will see the charity’s logo and symptoms infographic on-pack across its entire toilet roll range from September. Available across all M&S stores, customers will be able to scan a QR code redirecting them to Bowel Cancer UK’s website to find out more. 

The move is designed to help save lives by aiding 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 

M&S customers and colleagues will also spot new signage about bowel cancer symptoms in-store and across support centre toilets from next month. 

The idea originated from M&S Clothing and Home colleague Cara Hoofe, who submitted it to M&S’ newly launched Straight to Stuart colleague suggestion scheme. Introduced by new CEO Stuart Machin, the scheme encourages colleagues to share ideas and views with him directly via Microsoft Teams, with a quick response guaranteed. 

M&S Chief Executive Stuart Machin & Cara Hoofe

M&S colleague Cara Hoofe was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer in 2016 at 32 years old and was inspired to put forward the idea by the amazing fundraising and campaigning efforts of BowelBabe Deborah James. 

Cara Hoofe, M&S Clothing and Home team, comments: “Deborah is a huge inspiration to me and so many other young people diagnosed with bowel cancer. I feel fortunate my journey since diagnois 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.” 

Alongside its efforts to raise awareness, the retailer is also making a £50,000 donation to Bowel Cancer UK to help in its mission to save lives and improve the quality of life of everyone affected by bowel cancer.  

M&S and Bowel Cancer UK are calling on other retailers to join them introducing updated toilet packing, 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 go and see your doctor.  

This is exactly what Straight to Stuart is going to be 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. I’m asking all retailers to join us - the more people we reach, the more lives we can potentially help save.“ 

Earlier this year, M&S extended its partnership with Check4Cancer to include screening support for colleagues with a higher risk of bowel cancer. 

Genevieve Edwards, Chief Executive of Bowel Cancer UK, said: “We are delighted to partner with M&S to raise vital awareness of bowel cancer symptoms with people all over the country. It’s the UK’s fourth most common cancer, with someone diagnosed with the disease every 15 minutes in the UK. 

Bowel cancer is treatable and curable especially if diagnosed early, but 60% of people are diagnosed at later stages when it is much more difficult to treat. Part of the problem is low awareness of the red flag symptoms of bowel cancer that should prompt people to contact their GP.  

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.”