Corrie’s Rita in shocking new brain tumour storyline

1 min read

Coronation Street fans were left horrified after tonight’s shock revelation that soap icon Rita Tanner has a brain tumour. The surprise diagnosis came during Monday’s double bill on 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 then broke the news tonight that Rita’s MRI scan showed a single lesion in the frontal section of her brain. 

Pioneering national charity Brain Tumour Research 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).

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 Knox 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.


Valerie Emms

The charity is providing the case-study of grandmother Valerie Emms, who was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2011. Her daughter Helen describes her mother’s personality changing: “I noticed that she had become more anxious and more aggressive – she had never been one to mince her words, but was now quite intolerant and frustrated at not feeling well… I started to wonder whether Mum might be in the late stages of dementia – her confusion, fatigue, inability to concentrate.” 


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


Further details of Valerie’s story, and photos, are available, as are alternate case studies.


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


For further information, please contact:
Caroline Marrows at Brain Tumour Research on 01908 867221 or 07714 743764 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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