Barbara Knox: Corrie star on ‘frightening disease’ – symptoms to spot

Brain tumour: Cancer Research UK on 'different types' in 2017

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First appearing on the fictional cobbles in 1964, the star has gone on to become the second longest serving cast member on the show, behind William Roache (Ken Barlow). Being one of the older cast members, 88-year-old Knox took a prolonged break from the ITV soap to stay safe while the Covid pandemic ran rampant. Yet on her return, Knox has reprised her role, taking part in some of the most gripping storylines.

Back in 2017, viewers watched as Rita slowly became more forgetful and increasingly ill, culminating with her collapsing in the Rovers Returns on daughter Jenny Bradley’s hen do.

Despite viewers speculating that Barbara’s character was suffering from dementia, an MRI scan revealed that it was in fact a lesion on her brain.

Rita’s brain tumour storyline quickly became an important topic, with Barbara wanting to portray the realities of living with the condition as accurately as possible.

At the time, Barbara said: “When our producer Kate Oates talked to me about the brain tumour storyline for Rita, I was truly honoured to be tasked with taking on such an important story.

“As an actress playing the role I am mindful that there are people going through this in real life and it is vital that we do their stories justice.

“There is a long way to go yet in this storyline for Rita; as we follow her journey from the devastating diagnosis and how she comes to terms with the uncertainty of what the future holds for her, she has some big decisions to make in the coming weeks.

“Until I started working on this storyline I had no idea that a brain tumour could cause someone to act in the way Rita has been.

“It is a frightening disease and my thoughts are with everyone affected by a brain tumour.”

In order to develop the storyline accurately, creators and Barbara took advice from Brain Tumour Research, a UK based charity, to make sure that they could offer support to viewers who may be in similar situations to Rita.

For Barbara, this was not the first time a brain tumour has affected her life. Back in 2010, co-star and close friend Bill Tarmey, who played Jack Duckworth for more than 30 years had the shock from hell after his son Carl was diagnosed with an aggressive tumour.

Supporting her friend through the tough time, Bill became a Brain Tumour Research patron before he died of a heart attack in 2012.

The NHS explains that a brain tumour is a growth of cells that multiply uncontrollably and abnormally in the brain.

There are many different types of brain tumours that exist, with some non-cancerous (benign) and others cancerous (malignant). Those that start in the brain are referred to as primary brain tumours.

Tumours are “graded” according to how fast they grow and how likely they are to grow back after treatment. Grades one and two are usually low grades (benign), and three and four are higher grades (malignant).

Cancer Research UK states that around 5,900 people are diagnosed with benign or unknown behaviour tumours each year. In comparison around 5,500 people are diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour.

Symptoms of brain tumours can develop either gradually over several months, or extremely quickly spending on the growth rate of the tumour.

Symptoms that can occur due to the increase pressure inside of the skull include:

  • Headaches
  • Seizures (fits)
  • Feeling or being sick
  • Drowsiness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Problems with your eyes
  • Personality or behaviour changes.

In slight contrast, other possible symptoms that can develop due to the position of the tumour include, but are not limited to:

  • Difficulty walking
  • Short term memory loss
  • Difficulty hearing or speaking
  • Loss of smell
  • Changes in vision.

Commenting back in 2017, Brain Tumour Research chief executive Sue Farrington Smith MBE said the disease is “indiscriminate” and can affect anyone.

Speaking about symptoms of brain tumours, she added: “Our own research recognised that patients, friends and family members are often shocked at the personality changes brought about by this form of cancer.”

Similarly to symptoms, treatment for brain tumours will also differ depending on certain factors. Treatments for brain tumours in general consist of medication, surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

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