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Melvyn Bragg endured ’15 months of horrible bad health’ – ‘rotten’ cancer & collapsed lung

Melvyn Bragg discusses mental health for in 2015

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Veteran TV presenter Melvyn Bragg opened up about his “15 months of horrible bad health” during which he experienced “a couple of cancers” and a collapsed lung. The star, who presented The South Bank Sky Awards ceremony at The Savoy Hotel earlier this month, said he had a “rotten time for two or three years”.

Melvyn revealed his health issues in response to a question about “looking tired” back in 2020.

The 82-year-old explained: “Well, I didn’t go on about it and I’m not going to go on about it now.

“I had a rotten time for two or three years.

“I had a couple of cancers, I had a collapsed lung, I had all sorts of things.”

A year previously, in 2019, he said: “I’ve had 15 months of horrible bad health.

“And I’m not quite clear of cancer yet. But I’m well on the way. But that depletes you.

“I had viral pneumonia, a collapsed lung, a new hip. The cancer was very nasty.”

However, his health has been improving over the last couple of years, allowing him to return to some hosting work.

Speaking to the Radio Times, he said: “But I seem to have got through.

“I try to walk every day, and that’s building up.

“My wife tells me what to do. You get through these things if you’re lucky.”

Common cancer symptoms to look out for

Cancer can take on many forms and so, as a result, there are numerous symptoms associated with the disease.

Some of these are more noticeable than others, and many can be easily missed in the disease’s early stages.

According to the NHS: “It’s important to be aware of any new or worrying symptoms.

“Although it’s unlikely to be cancer, it’s important to speak to a GP so they can investigate. Finding cancer early means it’s easier to treat.

“If your GP suspects cancer, they’ll refer you to a specialist – usually within two weeks.”

Changes in bowel habits

If you notice changes to your bowel habits lasting longer than three weeks, you should speak to your GP.

These can include:

  • Tummy discomfort
  • Blood in your stool
  • Diarrhoea or constipation for no obvious reason
  • A feeling of not having fully emptied your bowels after going to the toilet
  • Pain in your stomach or back passage
  • Your stools are loose, pale or look greasy
  • Bloating

If you experience bloating for three weeks or more you should speak to a GP.


Any unexplained or unexpected bleeding should be referred to your GP.

Unexpected bleeding can be found in your urine, when coughing or in your vomit.

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Coughing, chest pain breathlessness

Speak to a GP if you’ve had a cough or any associated symptom for three weeks or more.


If you notice unusual or unexpected lumps within your body you should speak to your GP.

You should also pay attention to any lumps changing in size.

The NHS said: “It’s important to regularly check your breasts, underarms, groin and testicles for any new lumps or changes.


Speak to a GP if you have a mole that:

  • changes shape or texture
  • changes colour, gets darker or has more than two colours
  • starts itching, crusting, flaking or bleeding
  • gets larger or more raised from the skin.

Unexplained weight loss

You should also speak to a GP if you’ve lost a lot of weight over the last couple of months which cannot be explained by changes to your diet, exercise or stress.

Tummy or back pain

If you experience pain anywhere in your tummy or back and you’re not sure what’s causing it, you should speak to your GP.

This includes a dull pain that’s always there or a sharp pain that comes and goes.

Indigestion and heartburn

Some cancers can give you indigestion, heartburn and acid reflux.

This can feel like burning in your chest (heartburn) and make you burp or hiccup more than usual.

Speak to a GP if you get any of these symptoms regularly and are not sure why you’re getting them.

Itchy or yellow skin

Itchy skin, a yellow tinge to your skin or the whites of your eyes can be a sign of jaundice.

You may also notice darker urine.

Feeling tired and unwell

With some cancers, the symptoms can be harder to notice.

If you notice you are feeling weaker than usual, more tired or unwell, you should visit your GP.

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