ABC's Robin Roberts Has Breast CancerBy: Associated Press
ABC "Good Morning America" anchor Robin Roberts discovered she had breast cancer after following her own advice about early detection in a story about former colleague Joel Siegel's cancer death. Roberts, who announced her diagnosis on Tuesday's show, will undergo surgery on Friday.
"Hearing the words and saying it and seeing — it's surreal," Roberts, 46, told viewers in an on-air conversation with co-anchor Diane Sawyer.
Siegel, the ABC morning show's longtime film critic, died of colon cancer last month. During an ABC tribute to him, Roberts did a story about how early detection is key to surviving cancer. She went home that night and examined her breasts.
She found a lump. Roberts went in for follow-up tests and the cancer was discovered not in a mammogram, but in a more advanced ultrasound test and later biopsy.
"I'm very blessed and thankful that I found it early," said Roberts, who has no family history of breast cancer.
Surgery and a follow-up dose of radiation, as opposed to chemotherapy, would indicate that the cancer was detected very early and that there is a very good chance of recovery, said Dr. Julia Smith, director of the New York University Cancer Institute's Breast Cancer Screening and Prevention Program.
It's fairly common for women to come in for tests after feeling a lump only to find the lump was benign but early-stage cancer was elsewhere, said Dr. Patrick Borgen, director of the breast cancer program at Maimonides Cancer Center in New York. He did not know if this was the case with the ABC personality.
Roberts has been an anchor at "GMA" since 2005. She was a frequent contributor and news reader for several years before that. A former college basketball star, Roberts was a versatile reporter and anchor at ESPN before moving to ABC News.
She did much reporting for "Good Morning America" in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and began an effort to rebuild her hometown of Pass Christian, Miss.
Kate Snow, Claire Shipman and George Stephanopoulos will help fill in during Roberts' recovery.
Nearly 3,500 people had posted messages of good will on ABC's Web site by midafternoon on Tuesday, including one woman who said she will stop putting off her mammogram — and make her sister go for one, too.
As an anchor on a program watched by millions of women each day, Roberts can be influential in reminding people to get checked for cancer, the doctors said. When former "Today" anchor Katie Couric underwent an on-air colonoscopy following her husband's death from colon cancer, the number of people getting the test sharply increased.
Testing is particularly important for black women, many of whom face a particularly virulent strain of breast cancer, the doctors said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted in a study last winter that the percentage of women over 40 getting mammograms has started dropping after rising sharply for two decades.
Women should also be aware that screening, coupled with lifestyle changes if they're found at risk of developing breast cancer, can reduce chances they will get the disease, she said. "Women really need to know how much things have changed in the last 10 years," Smith said.
Rene Syler, before she left as an anchor on CBS News' "The Early Show" last year, did a series of reports on the chances she would get breast cancer after both her mother and father had the disease. Syler underwent a preventive mastectomy and breast reconstruction surgery last winter.
"When she said what she said on the air today I was literally sick about it," Syler said. "I'm so upset that she has to go through this. My advice is to lean on your friends and family and have faith that you will get through."
It was the second such announcement by an ABC News anchor in more than two years. Former anchor Peter Jennings announced on "World News Tonight" in April 2005 that he had lung cancer, which killed him four months later.
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