Eighties singer Carol Decker urges fans to get to know their bodies following recent health scare and treatment in Oxford 


Signs and symptoms

Carol Decker, best known as the lead singer of eighties band T’Pau and for their iconic hit, China In Your Hand, was a very healthy and active 65 year old with no previous health scares.

Carol in her 80s heyday

She continued with her decades long love of touring the UK and Europe, singing her band’s top hits, but in December 2022 she started experiencing chronic diarrhoea during her tour in Germany. Carol didn’t think much of it, however, as she had always experienced Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and put her symptoms down to having an upset stomach from eating different foods on the continent, a change in water and due to the nerves of performing.

Carol on tour when her symptoms started


She took a lot of Imodium to get through her tour and started Googling what could be wrong with her after the symptom went on for three months. She took antibiotics in case she had caught an infection and although the symptoms initially got better, it was masking a longer term issue. 

Once she was home from tour and her symptoms were not changing, her husband Richard encouraged her to see her GP.

Her Doctor took a stool sample and it was confirmed that there were microscopic blood samples in her poo. She was then put on a two week cancer critical pathway to quickly secure a colonoscopy at a hospital in Reading which was the nearest option to the Henley, Oxfordshire based singer. 

During the colonoscopy, the medics saw a very large polyp – a tissue growth – at an unusual angle in her colon which would need surgery. 

A biopsy was also taken and the initial results said it looked benign, but Carol was told it couldn’t be removed via operation in Reading and recommended seeing one of the best in his field, Associate Professor of Colorectal Surgery and Occtopus Trustee, Professor Chris Cunningham, who was based in Oxford.

Carol remembers: “I was blown away by the speed of the process for my diagnosis and obviously was revelived that it was a benign tumour, but felt anxious about the need for surgery. But I needn’t have felt this. As soon as I met Professor Chris I was reassured and all my worries were put at ease. I knew I had to do something about it and felt I was in the best possible hands.”

Prof. Chris Cunningham took another biopsy to ensure it definitely was benign and confirmed the reassuring news that it was. But also highlighted how it needed to be removed as the larger it grew, the more likely it could become cancerous. A removal would also help reduce the diarrhoea symptoms.


In August 2023, Carol had the polyp removed. The surgery took just under four hours and Carol woke up feeling fine and could not fault the care she received.

“I was treated at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford and stayed in hospital for one night. I went home the next day and felt physically fine but the urgency to go to the toilet was something I needed to adjust to.”

Prof. Chris Cunningham comments:

“A polyp is a growth also known as a tumour, that arises in the lining of the bowel. We often think of polyps as mushroom-shaped with a stalk, but they can also grow over a wide flat area as in Carol’s case. Small polyps can be easily removed at flexible endoscopy but some large polyps require more major surgery. All polyps start as benign growths but can become cancerous, and this is one major reason to have all polyps removed if safe to do so. In some cases this change happens when the polyps are small, but other polyps may grow very large without becoming cancerous. When part of a polyp becomes cancerous it means it has grown or invaded deeper into the bowel wall and can start to spread to lymph nodes or other organs in the body, such as liver or lung. This spread is called metastasis. Sometimes we can only confirm the presence or absence of cancerous change within a polyp when it is removed and looked at in detail by the pathologist. 

“In Carol’s case the tumour was too large to be removed by standard flexible endoscopy but because it was in the rectum, just inside the anus it was removed by surgery known as TAMIS – transanal minimally invasive surgery. In this procedure the tumour is removed completely and the defect closed with sutures This approach can be used for benign growths or those with early stage cancer and most patients make a quick recovery from this surgery. 

“Symptoms from polyps depend on the size and location in the bowel. Small polyps may cause no symptoms and can be detected through bowel cancer screening test (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/bowel-cancer-screening/) or incidentally at colonoscopy when symptoms are being investigated. 

“In Carol’s situation there was a large polyp in the rectum. These polyps tend to produce a lot of slime or mucus. This irritates the bowel giving loose, urgent bowel habits which can be difficult to control. Many patients also describe lots of wind or “wet wind” which can be a distressing symptom for patients. 

“When polyps grow higher up in the bowel the symptoms tend to be more subtle as mucus gets mixed with poo, however, it can cause a change in bowel habit with looseness and excessive wind, and these may cause crampy discomfort much like symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Polyps higher up in the bowel may also bleed, but because this is mixed with poo it may not be seen when going to the toilet. The low level of bleeding can cause anaemia and this is a very important occurrence that should always be investigated. Symptoms of anaemia include reduced energy and sometimes breathlessness and it is easy to have this check with a simple blood test. 

“Carol’s symptoms from the growth were relieved after its removal but because it was so large the rectum was effectively reduced in capacity after the surgery, and this affects bowel function. However, this settles, usually within a few weeks as the capacity and compliance returns but it can take longer. 

Carol continues: “I needed to do kegel exercises to get the muscles working again as I would have the urgency for the toilet for quite some time after the operation and I needed to work my life around that feeling to accommodate for it. 

“I only felt I was in full control of my continence in January 2024, so it took a lot of prep during that time when I was out and about, ensuring I never went out without pads, spare pants, and wipes with me when travelling. 

“When singing, the diagram pushes down on the bowels so I regrettably had to cancel several gigs in September 2023 but started working again at the end of November. When I did return to gigging, I would make sure I planned what I ate and tried to have an empty stomach before heading on stage to reassure me that no accidents would happen. Because the show must always go on! 

“When my bowels started to go back to normal, I jokingly nearly announced I had my first solid poo on X (formerly known as Twitter)  that was how elated I was about it!”


Post treatment and looking towards the future

The now 66 year old, who lives with her husband and grown up kids Scarlett (24) and Dylan (21) and their dog Finn, underwent a sigmoidoscopy (a small camera to check the lower intestine) in a follow up appointment after her surgery but does not need to be seen for another 12 months which was such a relief for her when she got that news. She says she is fighting fit and feeling really well.

Carol with her family

Carol is back gigging full time, with lots of summer festivals planned all around the UK and abroad, including the ‘Generations Tour’ with fellow pop icons Human League and Sophie Ellis-Bextor.

Prof Chris Cunningham adds: “If you experience bowel symptoms that last more than a few weeks, such as a change in bowel habit or abdominal discomfort, or notice bleeding in your poo, please do always seek medical advice. A simple stool test known as FIT, is a very good means of determining if there is something serious causing this and help determine if further investigation is required.  The earlier something is spotted, the better the patient’s outcome will be.”

Carol concludes: “I want to highlight that I didn’t see any blood in my poo which is a really common symptom of a colorectal issue. And I could have easily ignored my diarrhoea and put it down to other reasons for months which might have meant a very different outcome for me.  Therefore I urge everyone to get to know their bodies and when something happens that is unusual for them, get it checked out.”

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