A breast cancer diagnosis was not something she ever expected. ABC News correspondent Amy Robach’s first mammogram Oct. 1 on ABC—live and on air, no less—turned out to save her life. At 40 (the age doctors recommend women should start having mammograms), she has been diagnosed with breast cancer. She announced Monday she will be undergoing a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery this week. Robach’s diagnosis stresses the importance of early breast cancer detection.
Robach, a mother of two married to actor Andrew Shue, credits the ABC News producers and Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts for persuading her to do her live mammogram on TV. Because of her busy schedule, she had been putting off getting a screening.
In a blog post for ABC, Robach wrote, “I got lucky by catching it early, and there are so many people to thank for making sure I did. Every producer, every person who urged me to do this, changed my trajectory.”
Screening early for breast cancer is even more important when considering Robach has a scant family history of breast cancer. She eats healthy and exercises, demonstrating that all women should begin screening for breast cancer at age 40. Even if one woman has one or more risk factors for breast cancer, however, this doesn’t necessarily mean she will develop breast cancer. Certainly, diet and exercise can have an impact.
According to the American Cancer Society,
“Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women, except for skin cancers. About 1 in 8 (12%) women in the US will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime.”
Although a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer increases with age, younger women can also develop breast cancer, indicated by this sobering statistic from American Cancer Society:
“About 1 out of 8 invasive breast cancers are found in women younger than 45, while about 2 of 3 invasive breast cancers are found in women age 55 or older.”
Additionally, the importance of self exams cannot be overstated. For Maria Samayoa, a San Pedro, CA resident who was diagnosed with stage 2 Paget disease of the nipple (a rare form of breast cancer) in 2008, she found a lump in her left breast upon self examination. As is typical of Paget disease symptoms, her initial symptom was a rash.
“I thought the rash was just dry skin,” Samayoa said. “I went to the Vasek Polak Breast Center [Vasek and Anna Maria Polak Breast Diagnostic Center at Torrance Memorial in Torrance, CA] regarding the lump and an actual doctor looked at my X-rays and the dry skin and [was] told it would all go away.”
In Samayoa’s case, it was important for her to seek a second opinion. Her primary care physician sent her to a dermatologist to obtain a biopsy of the dry skin on her left breast.
“My primary referred me to my oncologist,” Samayoa recalled. “I was in shock.” After undergoing a mastectomy and Deep Inferior Epigastric Artery Perforator (DIEP) flap (which takes skin from abdomen to reconstruct the breast) , chemotherapy, and herceptin treatment, in addition to lymph node removal, her cancer went into remission in 2011.
Paget disease of the nipple is rare compared with other types of breast cancer. It is not hereditary and because of the aggressive nature of the disease, herceptin treatment is often used in combination with chemotherapy.
By Juana Poareo