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George Alagiah: BBC News presenter dead aged 67
Brave George Alagiah was attempting to raise cancer awareness right up until the end of his life, his final Twitter post has revealed.
Providing a link for NHS bowel cancer screening tests, he told his 76,000 followers on May 1: “I wish I’d had access to one of these kits when I was diagnosed nine years ago.”
The newsreader’s agent announced that he had died aged 67 today, ending an almost decade-long battle with the disease.
In his final tweet, less than two months before he died, he’d posted an advertising campaign he’d taken part in explaining that the tests are a “simple, free and easy way to take care of your health”.
Later that month, he’d retweeted passionate comments about the political situation in his birth country of Sri Lanka and Russian president Vladimir Putin, but the NHS-focussed tweet was the last one to come directly from him.
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Followers had flocked to the post to offer support, describing him as “legendary” and assuring him they had plenty of “prayers and positive thoughts” for him.
The NHS began offering free bowel cancer testing kits in 2021, but prior to that, as George was under 60 at the time, he was not automatically given the opportunity to have one.
“Had I been screened, I could have been picked up. I would have been screened at least three times and possibly four by the time I was 58 and this would have been caught at the stage of a little polyp,” he agonised.
George added: “We know that if you catch bowel cancer early, survival rates are tremendous.”
@gogzyboy15 had a sad story of his own to share, admitting: “I had access and threw kit in bin – I ended up being treated for bowel cancer which travelled to liver.
“Chemo, radiotherapy, three major iOS- a temporary stoma and more chemo – I’m lucky 5 years on – for f***’s sake if that kit comes in the letter box – just do it!!”(sic) he urged fellow fans.
@LynneDa81957832 chimed in: “How fortunate we all are to have this opportunity. Please, please everyone who is eligible, listen to George and dont fail to complete your screening test. xx.”
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A statement provided by his agent broke the news of George’s death.
It read: “I am so terribly sorry to inform you that George Alagiah died peacefully today, surrounded by his family and loved ones.
“George fought until the bitter end but sadly that battle ended earlier today.”
The statement added: “George was deeply loved by everybody who knew him, whether it was a friend, a colleague or a member of the public. He simply was a wonderful human being.”
The Sri Lankan born star had been a favourite with viewers ever since he’d started presenting BBC One’s News at Six back in 2007.
However by April 2014, he’d been diagnosed with advanced stage four bowel cancer, which had spread not just to his lymph nodes but also his liver, most of which had to be removed.
He’d first started working with the BBC in 1989, and in his time with the broadcaster had interviewed high profile figures from Robert Mugabe, the former president of Zimbabwe, to Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
He endured numerous ops and gruelling rounds of chemotherapy, only to announce in October 2022 that he was taking another break from his presenting role as the cancer had spread.