Dame Julie Walters reveals secret bowel cancer battle after surgery and chemotherapy

20 February 2020, 09:23 | Updated: 20 February 2020, 09:30

Julie Walters has opened up about battling bowel cancer
Julie Walters has opened up about battling bowel cancer. Picture: PA Images

Dame Julie Walters said she thought doctors ‘must have been mistaken’ when she was told.

Acting legend Dame Julie Walters has opened up about being diagnosed with stage three bowel cancer.

The 69-year-old was told the news just 18 months ago after doctors found two primary tumours in her large intestine.

But after undergoing surgery and chemotherapy, Dame Julie has now been given the all clear.

Speaking on BBC's Victoria Derbyshire, she revealed she was first referred to a gastric surgeon after complaining of stomach pain, heartburn and vomiting.

Julie Walters has opened up about her bowel cancer diagnosis
Julie Walters has opened up about her bowel cancer diagnosis. Picture: PA Images

And after a CT scan, a doctor broke the news to her while she was on set for upcoming film The Secret Garden.

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"I was still thinking, 'That's ridiculous, he must have made a mistake'. I couldn't believe it,” she said.

The Mamma Mia actress also recalled the devastating moment she had to tell husband Grant Roffey of her diagnosis, as she admitted: "So I came out and then Grant was waiting in the car because he'd taken me. And I'd say, 'They're worried it's cancer.'

"I'll never forget his face. And tears came into his eyes and I thought, 'Oh Grant!' So I then worried about him, more than me."

Julie Walters and her husband Grant Roffey
Julie Walters and her husband Grant Roffey. Picture: PA Images

She had to have 30cm taken out of her colon during surgery, before undergoing chemotherapy but is now doing 'really well', adding: “I've just had a scan, and I know that [I'm] clear.”

Dame Julie previously missed work commitments during her treatment, skipping the Mamma Mia 2 premiere in Summer 2018 and dropping out of filming for her upcoming film The Secret Garden.

In March last year, Dame Julie announced she was taking a year off work, and has now said she may never appear in another film.

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“It would have to be something I'm really engaged with [to take another role on],” she said.

“I'm not saying I'll never act again. But I certainly don't think I can go back to [a film that requires working] six days a week, five in the morning till seven o'clock at night.”

Mamma Mia premiere 2008
Mamma Mia premiere 2008. Picture: Getty Images

What are the symptoms of bowel cancer?

According to the NHS website, the symptoms of bowel cancer can be subtle and do not necessarily make you feel ill.

More than 90% of people with bowel cancer have one of the following combinations of symptoms:

- a persistent change in bowel habit – pooing more often, with looser, runnier poos and sometimes tummy (abdominal) pain

- blood in the poo without other symptoms of piles (haemorrhoids) – this makes it unlikely the cause is haemorrhoids

- abdominal pain, discomfort or bloating always brought on by eating – sometimes resulting in a reduction in the amount of food eaten and weight loss

You should see your GP if you have one or more of the symptoms of bowel cancer, and they persist for more than four weeks.

Find out more information at the NHS website here.