Minister must undergo breast cancer operation

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Indy Politics

The Consumer Affairs minister, Melanie Johnson, is to step down from her post temporarily while she is treated for breast cancer, it emerged. She will leave work at the Department of Trade and Industry next month to undergo a mastectomy after being diagnosed during the summer.

Ms Johnson, 45, is expected to spend about 10 days recovering at home in her Welwyn and Hatfield constituency after the operation before returning to work before Christmas, the DTI said.

She was diagnosed with cancer after undergoing tests at Addenbrooke's Hospital, in Cambridge, over the summer. Yesterday, she was at her desk at the DTI with a full diary of meetings and engagements.

Officials said Ms Johnson, a mother of three children, wants to work in the days up until the operation and stay in touch with the department while recuperating. Fellow ministers in the department will cover her work in the meantime.

Ms Johnson said: "Breast cancer can happen to any woman, regardless of who she is. I am acutely aware it is something many women still do not believe will happen to them."

The Cambridge-educated former schools inspector, who was elected to parliament in 1997, was one of the candidates selected from an all-woman shortlist. She had to weather attacks from her Conservative opponent David Evans about the fact she had not married her long-term partner, Michael Jordan.

She has recently sent a message of support to the charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer, which promotes breast cancer screening.

A DTI spokeswoman said: "She is working and has a full day of meetings and she will be working right up to the operation. She wants to focus on getting on with her job and focus on her work.

"She has said she will return to her duties as soon as possible and she will be looking at papers at home and will be keeping in touch with the office."

Some 34,258 cases of breast cancer were recorded in 1995, but deaths from the disease have fallen by 30 per cent in the United Kingdom, a drop attributed to improved screening and diagnosis.

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