Former Olympics Minister Dame Tessa Jowell has been diagnosed with brain cancer, her family have revealed.

Her daughter-in-law Ella Woodward posted on social media that the Labour peer was diagnosed in May.

Writing on Dame Tessa’s 70th birthday, she described the last few months as “some of the hardest of our lives”.

The politician, who stood down as an MP in 2015, responded by tweeting her thanks for the “love and support” she had been shown.

Ms Woodward, a food blogger who is married to the politician’s son Matt Mills, wrote on Instagram: “Matt’s Mum was suddenly diagnosed with brain cancer in May.

“Her bravery, optimism, love and support for others during this process has inspired us both so much, and today we’re all pledging to try and do everything we can to make people’s lives with cancer better for longer.

Tessa Jowell’s career

The Labour peer was first elected to Parliament in 1992. She became culture secretary from 2001 until 2007 and later served as paymaster general. During Tony Blair’s administration, she served as the Minister for the Olympics and played a major role in ensuring the coming of the Games to London. She was known as one of Mr Blair’s most ardent supporters.

In 2012, she was made a Dame in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

She stood down as an MP at the 2015 general election

Sarah Lindsell, chief executive of The Brain Tumour Charity, said: “Our hearts go out to Tessa Jowell and her family after being diagnosed with a high grade brain tumour.

“And we applaud her pledge on her 70th birthday to help people whose lives are turned upside down by this devastating disease.”


Facts about Brain Cancer & Tumours

Tumors composed of cancer cells are called malignant tumors, and those composed of mainly noncancerous cells are called benign tumors.
Cancer cells that develop from brain tissue are called primary brain tumors while tumors that spread from other body sites to the brain are termed metastatic or secondary brain tumors.
  1. Brain tumour research is under-funded in the UK and the public, in general, is unaware of the magnitude of the problem.
  2. Brain tumours have recently overtaken leukaemia as the most common malignancy and cause of death in children.
  3. Lack of funding and research into the treatment of aggressive malignant brain tumours means survival rates are no better than they were 40 years ago.
  4. The cure rate for most brain tumours is significantly lower than that for most other types of cancer.
  5. Because of their location at the control centre for thought, emotion and physical function, brain tumours are difficult to treat.
  6. Approximately only one third of patients survive for five years following the diagnosis of a primary or malignant brain tumour.
  7. Around 9,000 new cases of primary brain tumours are diagnosed in the UK each year. Across Yorkshire and the Humber we estimate there are 1,000 patients diagnosed each year, around 50 of these will be children.
  8. Brain tumours are the second most common cause of neurological death (stroke is the most common).
  9. Currently, brain tumours cannot be prevented because their cause is still unknown.
  10. Many tumours seen in adult patients are distinct and infrequently seen in children.
  11. There are over 120 different types of brain tumours, making effective treatment very complicated.
  12. Brain tumours are currently treated by surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
  13. Brain tumours are the second fastest growing cause of cancer death among those over age 65, and unlike the first and third fastest growing causes (lung cancer and melanoma), no behavioural change has been shown to reduce the risk.
  14. Research is progressing into a number of new areas such as oncogenes (the presence of special genes in our cells that may be associated with cancer) and the abnormal production of specialised growth factors.


Diagnosing Brain Tumours – Symptoms

People with a brain tumor may experience the following symptoms or signs. Sometimes, people with a brain tumor do not have any of these changes. Or, the cause of a symptom may be another medical condition that is not a brain tumor.

Symptoms of a brain tumor can be general or specific. A general symptom is caused by the pressure of the tumor on the brain or spinal cord. Specific symptoms are caused when a specific part of the brain is not working well because of the tumor. For many people with a brain tumor, they were diagnosed when they went to the doctor after experiencing a problem, such as a headache or other changes.

General symptoms include:

  • Headaches, which may be severe and worsen with activity or in the early morning
  • Seizures. Motor seizures, also called convulsions, are sudden involuntary movements of a person’s muscles. People may experience different types of seizures, including myclonic and tonic-clonic (grand mal). Certain drugs can help prevent or control them. The differences between these types of seizures are listed below:
    • Myclonic
      • Single or multiple muscle twitches, jerks, spasms
    • Tonic-Clonic (Grand Mal)
      • Loss of consciousness and body tone, followed by twitching and relaxing muscles that are called contractions
      • Loss of control of body functions
      • May be a short 30-second period of no breathing and a person may turn a shade of blue
      • After this type of seizure a person may be sleepy and experience a headache, confusion, weakness, numbness, and sore muscles.
    • Sensory
      • Change in sensation, vision, smell, and/or hearing without losing consciousness
    • Complex partial
      • May cause a loss of awareness or a partial or total loss of consciousness
      • May be associated with repetitive, unintentional movements, such as twitching
  • Personality or memory changes
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Drowsiness
  • Sleep problems
  • Memory problems
  • Changes in ability to walk or perform daily activities

Symptoms that may be specific to the location of the tumor include:

  • Pressure or headache near the tumor
  • Loss of balance and difficulty with fine motor skills is linked with a tumor in the cerebellum.
  • Changes in judgment, including loss of initiative, sluggishness, and muscle weakness or paralysis is associated with a tumor in the frontal lobe of the cerebrum.
  • Partial or complete loss of vision is caused by a tumor in the occipital lobe or temporal lobe of the cerebrum.
  • Changes in speech, hearing, memory, or emotional state, such as aggressiveness and problems understanding or retrieving words can develop from a tumor in the frontal and temporal lobe of the cerebrum.
  • Altered perception of touch or pressure, arm or leg weakness on 1 side of the body, or confusion with left and right sides of the body are linked to a tumor in the frontal or parietal lobe of the cerebrum.
  • Inability to look upward can be caused by a pineal gland tumor.
  • Lactation, which is the secretion of breast milk and altered menstrual periods in women, and growth in hands and feet in adults are associated with a pituitary tumor.
  • Difficulty swallowing, facial weakness or numbness, or double vision is a symptom of a tumor in the brain stem.
  • Vision changes, including loss of part of the vision or double vision can be from a tumor in the temporal lobe, occipital lobe, or brain stem.

If you are concerned about any changes you experience, please talk with your doctor. Your doctor will ask how long and how often you’ve been experiencing the symptom(s), in addition to other questions. This is to help find out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis.

If a brain tumor is diagnosed, relieving symptoms remains an important part of your care and treatment. This may also be called symptom management, palliative care, or supportive care. Be sure to talk with your health care team about symptoms you experience, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms. Learn more about managing symptoms of a brain tumor in the Treatment Options section.




  1. Pingback: Francene Rusell

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.