George Alagiah to take break from BBC news role after his cancer spreads

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George Alagiah - Jeff Overs/BBC/PA
George Alagiah - Jeff Overs/BBC/PA

George Alagiah, the BBC newsreader, is to take a break from broadcasting to deal with “a further spread of cancer”, his agent has announced.

Following successful treatment for bowel cancer, which was first diagnosed in 2014, he returned to work on BBC News at Six. But his illness returned and, by last year, had spread to his lungs, lymph nodes and liver.

Mr Alagiah’s agent has said in a statement on Monday that the newsreader had suffered a “further spread” and would be taking “a break from studio duties” while undergoing additional treatment.

The statement added: “In a letter to colleagues in the newsroom, Mr Alagiah said his medical team had decided to hit the new tumour ‘hard and fast’. He is due to undergo a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy over the next few months.”

According to his agent, Mr Alagiah said he was “determined to come back” to work on the programme, which has “kept me sane over the last few years”.

George Alagiah - Clara Molden
George Alagiah - Clara Molden

Following the latest announcement, a spokesman for the BBC said: “We are all wishing George well and look forward to seeing him back in the newsroom.”

Broadcasting colleagues shared their best wishes with the 65-year-old presenter, who has fronted the BBC News at Six since 2007.

Former ITV newsreader Alistair Stewart called him “one of the finest newscasters in the business, and a lovely guy”, adding: “I wish him well as he strives for a full recovery”.

BBC presenter Kasia Madera described her colleague as “the nicest person in broadcasting”, and David Shukman, the corporation’s science editor, sent “every good wish for the coming weeks”.

Mr Alagiah, who first joined the BBC in 1989, said that his experience in dealing with cancer had helped him face his battle with Covid.

Speaking to colleague Sophie Raworth last year, he said: “I don’t want to trivialise because I seem to have had a mild dose, but actually, the very fact that we [cancer patients] are living with cancer, I think gives us an edge.

“We’ve confronted those difficult, dark moments in our life. And in some ways, I think that we, those of us living with cancer, are stronger because we kind of know what it is like to go into something where the outcomes are uncertain.

“And I certainly feel that having had that experience, in my case six years as a cancer patient, I went into this feeling actually quite strong, if I can live with cancer, I can certainly live with Covid-19.”

Alagiah has previously said that he and his doctors refuse to speak of his illness as “chronic” or “terminal”, but revealed that he had told medical staff to warn him when it was time to “sort my affairs out”.

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