James Brokenshire calls for greater awareness of lung cancer

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James BrokenshireImage source, Reuters
Image caption,
James Brokenshire served as NI secretary from July 2016 until his resignation last month

Former Northern Ireland Secretary of State James Brokenshire has said his recent lung cancer diagnosis took him "into some dark places".

The 50-year-old MP resigned from the role last month, saying he required surgery to remove a lesion on his lung.

He has since had part of his right lung removed but returned work five days ago as a backbencher at Westminster.

Speaking to both Sky News and the Telegraph newspaper, he called for greater awareness about lung cancer.

"Reflecting now, I feel that I'm lucky that it was at a very early stage, it was in a place where surgery was available, but yes, it potentially takes you into some dark places," Mr Brokenshire told Sky News.

'Break the stigma'

He described how he first noticed there was a problem when he coughed up blood into a tissue during a weekend break from talks aimed at restoring Northern Ireland's devolved government.

The Old Bexley and Sidcup MP said at that stage, he had a very busy work schedule but is now thankful that he made time to visit his GP.

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Mr Brokenshire then underwent a bronchoscopy on the same day that the UK and EU announced a last minute breakthrough in the first phase of Brexit negotiations, after days of controversy over the post-Brexit Irish border.

"I think we need to promote that lung cancer is about early diagnosis, about awareness, about ensuring there are the right pathways to get the clinical interventions that are needed," he said.

Image source, James Brokenshire
Image caption,
Mr Brokenshire had surgery to remove the upper lobe of his right lung last month

"And also to break some of the stigma around lung cancer, because around 15% of cases are in non-smokers, people who have not smoked at all and yet there is this assumption that it must be your fault in some way. And we do need to break that."

Mr Brokenshire resigned from his Cabinet position on 8 January, the day after his 50th birthday.

'No regrets'

He was replaced by Karen Bradley, who chaired a fresh round of Stormont talks which collapsed on Valentine's Day.

He told Sky News he feels he did the right thing by stepping down as secretary of state.

"You have to be well. Look at the situation in Northern Ireland now, where sadly we still do not have agreement.

"You owe it to everyone to be able to give it 100%, and I could not do that so I have no regrets."