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Barbara Windsor has made another return to EastEnders.

In tonight’s (15 January) episode, her character Peggy Mitchell shared devastating news about her health with son Phil (Steve McFadden). The scenes were not publicised before transmission.

“It’s a new day in Walford tomorrow. And you’re not going to want to miss this one. Promise. #EastEnders,” the soap’s Executive Producer Dominic Treadwell-Collins teased in a tweet before the episode.

After hearing that his mum is back in London, Phil paid her a visit at her sister Sal’s flat looking for information on his daughter Louise’s whereabouts. Peggy was unusually quiet as a drunken Phil berated her about the past, but eventually broke her silence to reveal “The cancer’s back – I’m dying!”

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Phil was left stunned by the news while Peggy locked herself in another room and resumed ignoring her son. With his attempts to speak to Peggy proving futile, Phil left the flat to continue his mission of finding his daughter.

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Barbara originally played the role of Peggy between 1994-2010, and has since made a number of brief returns to the saga; including during its 30th anniversary live week last year.

The Mitchell matriarch and long-time Queen Vic landlady has been at the centre of some of EastEnders‘ most memorable plots since Barbara’s first appearance in the role. She feuded with Pat Evans (Pam St. Clement) for the affections of Frank Butcher (Mike Reid) prior to a friendship being established between the pair, held a long term grudge against Grant’s one-time wife Sharon (Letitia Dean) for her affair with Phil, and married her manipulative former brother-in-law Archie (Larry Lamb) which led to her losing the Queen Vic.

Peggy was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996 (right) with the disease recurring in 1999, leading to her having a mastectomy. The emotional scenes saw Barbara pick up an award for Best Actress at the British Soap Awards. Peggy later feared her cancer had returned in 2010 but it was a false alarm.

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EastEnders airs Monday and Friday at 8.00pm and Tuesday and Thursday at 7.30pm on BBC One, with repeat screenings on BBC Three at 10.00pm. Viewers can also catch up online via BBC iPlayer.

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