Son of late Corrie stalwart in real life brain tumour battle as The Street’s Rita finally diagnosed with the disease

1 min read

Coronation Street fans were left reeling after tonight’s shock revelation that soap icon Rita Tanner has a brain tumour. The diagnosis came during the double bill, on Monday 18th September, following weeks showing an ailing Rita becoming increasingly confused and amidst widespread speculation that she may have dementia.

Rita, played for over 50 years by Barbara Knox, 84, collapsed at foster daughter Jenny Bradley’s hen do on Friday night, before being rushed into hospital. Following tests, doctors broke the news tonight that Rita’s MRI scan showed a single lesion in the frontal section of her brain. 

Actress Barbara has real-life experience of the disease as co-star and close friend Bill Tarmey, who played Jack Duckworth for more than 30 years, revealed his son Carl Piddington needed surgery to remove an aggressive brain tumour in 2010. Still battling and undergoing treatment Carl, a former publican and father of three children who now lives in Ashton-Under-Lyne, said: “Dad and Barbara became very close over the years and I know that she was a great support to him. Very few people knew that the reason dad left the cast in 2010 was because of my diagnosis.

“They were good friends and I met Barbara many times over the years, she is lots of fun and I have many fond memories of seeing her and my dad together.”

Bill became a patron of the pioneering national charity Brain Tumour Research  which has been consulting on the storyline since the spring. Consultant clinical oncologist, Dr Matt Williams, from the charity’s Centre of Excellence at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, has been working closely with producers to ensure that Rita’s experience is as accurate as possible. The charity is also providing an advice line for viewers that may be affected (01908 867200).

Carl, who has raised tens of thousands of pounds for research and has campaigned with the charity at Westminster said: “Dad did everything he could to help raise awareness of the disease and I owe it to him and to all the many families involved to do what I can. There’s a good chance my brain tumour will get me in the end but I’m not going to sit and wait for it. As my dad always used to say, while laying his hands on my shoulders and looking into my eyes: ‘you’re a lion, my son’.”

Sue Farrington Smith MBE, Chief Executive of Brain Tumour Research, said: “Some 16,000 people are diagnosed with a brain tumour in the UK each year, so we were pleased that Coronation Street approached us to advise on this storyline. This disease is indiscriminate; brain tumours can affect anyone, at any age, while symptoms can vary significantly.

“Our own research [through research agency Populus earlier this year] recognised that patients, friends and family members are often shocked at the personality changes brought about by this form of cancer. Patients can experience confusion, like Rita, mood swings and depression amongst other things; unfortunately, there are cases where these symptoms are extreme.

“So little is understood about brain tumours and just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease. Brain Tumour Research is focused on funding sustainable research to find a cure for brain tumours, to offer hope for patients like Rita.”

There are over 120 different types of brain tumour, including low-grade and high-grade, according to Brain Tumour Research. Less than 20% of those diagnosed with a brain tumour survive beyond five years compared with an average of 50% across all cancers.

Corrie matriarch 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. I was immediately determined to ensure that we got every aspect of the portrayal of such a devastating illness correct. The work the team did with Brain Tumour Research has been invaluable. 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 can’t just be me who has been surprised by how it affected Rita, so clearly not enough is known about brain tumours and their symptoms. It is a frightening disease and my thoughts are with everyone affected by a brain tumour.”

This is not the first time that Rita has been affected by a brain tumour in the long-running soap, having lost her husband of three months, Ted Sullivan, to the disease in 1992. The characters’ dedicated fans have already been tweeting #SaveRita during the last few weeks as her condition has deteriorated. Coronation Street returns on Wednesday.

Please support the charity’s vital work by donating at:


Dr Kieran Breen, Director of Research at the charity Brain Tumour Research, is available to comment.


For further information, please contact:
Susan Castle-Smith at Brain Tumour Research on 01908 867205 or 07887 241639 or


Notes to Editors

Brain Tumour Research is the only national charity in the UK focused on funding sustainable research to find a cure for brain tumours. We are building a game-changing network of world-class Research Centres of Excellence in the UK. Embracing passionate member charities nationwide, £5.5 million was raised towards research and support during 2016.

We are campaigning to see the national spend on research into brain tumours increased to £30 - £35 million a year, in line with breast cancer and leukaemia. The charity is celebrating a year of high-profile campaigning on this issue following the unprecedented success of its petition in 2016. Following that, Brain Tumour Research is now taking a leading role in the Government’s Task and Finish Working Group convened to tackle the historic underfunding for research.

Key statistics on brain tumours:

  • Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer
  • They kill more children than leukaemia
  • They kill more men under 45 than prostate cancer
  • They kill more women under 35 than breast cancer
  • Just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease
  • In the UK 16,000 people each year are diagnosed with a brain tumour
  • Less than 20% of those diagnosed with a brain tumour survive beyond five years compared with an average of 50% across all cancers
  • Brain tumours are indiscriminate; they can affect anyone, at any age
  • Incidences of, and deaths from, brain tumours are increasing.
Please quote Brain Tumour Research as the source when using this information. Additional facts and statistics are available from our website including our latest Report on National Research Funding. We can also provide case-studies and research expertise for media.
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