Samantha Womack ‘would have delayed’ cancer treatment to strike with NHS staff

Samantha Womack has said she would have delayed her own cancer treatment in solidarity with striking NHS staff who “shouldn’t be eating from food banks”.

The former EastEnders actor, 50, announced she had been diagnosed with “brutal” breast cancer in August last year – shortly after Dame Olivia Newton-John died from the disease.

England’s National Health Service has seen numerous strikes over the past few months, the latest being on last month on 30 April.

Describing herself as a “huge advocate” of England’s National Health Service, she called it “one of the best gifts we have” in an interview with Press Association.

She added: “But when you’ve got the people who are working as hard as they are doing the hours they are, not being supported, even if it would have delayed my own personal treatment.”

“I would have been out there fighting with them, because I’m absolutely desperate for them to be paid properly and appropriately for what they do,” she continued.

“They certainly shouldn’t be eating from food banks.”

She also told the agency that Newton-John’s death made Womack want to share her own diagnosis, “because I thought everyone knows someone that’s got cancer”.

“It was very poignant for me when I got my diagnosis that she had lost her battle and they happened within the same timeframe,” she explained.

Womack, who played Ronnie Mitchell on the hit BBC soap until 2017, told fans in January 2023 that she had overcome breast cancer.

The British actor is now lending her support to a campaign enabling greater access to a new AI breast cancer diagnostic tool called Digistain.

The UK’s first breast cancer risk profiling solution, Digistain helps patients better understand their cancer and the specific treatment that will most benefit them.

Womack said she didn’t know about Digistain when her cancer was diagnosed, and that she was “anxious not to have chemotherapy” if she didn’t require the “brutal treatment”.

“I knew that there was a test called the Oncotype test, which is very similar....(but) it’s incredibly expensive so it’s just not available to most people,” she added.

Womack said the test gives a ratio of how beneficial chemotherapy would be and she was “on the fence” so had two rounds before making the decision to stop.

Last October, Womack gave fans a health update while receiving the treatment, explaining that she had got her appetite back but was struggling with migraines.

Elsewhere in the interview on Friday (12 May), Womack reflected on life after being given the all-clear and how it has changed her perspective.

“It’s apparent in every little thing that you think,” she continued. “It’s a bit like learning to think and speak in a different language and it’s quite exhausting, because you’re not quite the same person that you were so everything is just slightly shaded in a different colour.”