The Labour MP Dawn Butler said she has been diagnosed with breast cancer following a routine mammogram.
Butler said she would be taking time off to recover fully from an operation, but said the prognosis was good because the condition had been detected at a relatively early stage.
“Of course, everything stood still as it does when you hear the dreaded C-word – it is a shock but an early diagnosis means that it is something that I will get through and over. The NHS has caught my cancer early, the operation was a complete success, and I will make a full recovery,” the 52-year-old said.
“A mammogram saved my life,” she told the BBC. “Without a mammogram, my cancer wouldn’t have been discovered.” Butler, whose mother and sister survived breast cancer, said she had initially shared her diagnosis with her partner and sister-in-law and then suffered a panic attack when she realised she would have to make the news public.
Butler, the MP for Brent Central since 2015, said that, while she is a workaholic and loves her role as an MP, she would listen to medical advice and take time to recover.
The Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, paid tribute to her “bravery, strength and determination”, saying: “I am sorry you’re going through this, but know that I, and the whole party, are behind you.”
Butler became the first black woman to speak at the Commons dispatch box in 2009, when she was a junior Cabinet Office minister.
Last year, people living in the area in which she grew up campaigned for her to be honoured with a blue plaque by the local council. She called the moment it was placed on the building that once housed her father’s bakery “one of the most treasured honours” of her life.
In 2020, Vogue magazine named her among its 25 most influential women in the UK, saying she has “consistently spoken up for the underrepresented, and highlighted instances of racial discrimination in society – and politics”.
Butler has said she would be taking time away from Westminster so she can recuperate, adding that her staff would keep her constituency office running and that she hoped her absence would be brief.
She added: “I want to end my statement by thanking the NHS and everyone who is soldiering through. I have seen first-hand how the NHS is under enormous pressure – the Royal London seemed full, people were waiting on chairs in A&E for beds, the staff were exhausted in the NHS and many were suffering from PTSD.
“Covid-19 has taken a lot out of them. So many people have missed appointments (many through no fault of their own), results are delayed and operations postponed. If we are to show our appreciation for the amazing NHS workers and rebuild our health service then we need to properly invest in the NHS, both structurally and in the very people who keep it functioning.”