US entertainment TV presenter Giuliana Rancic has been diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. The 37-year-old host of E! News and Fashion Police announced the news on NBC’s Today Show. (See video at the end of the article.)
The cancer was discovered when she went for a mammogram at the insistence of her fertility specialist. Married to Bill Rancic (winner of Donald Trump’s first Apprentice show) the couple’s struggle with infertility has been followed by millions of people on their reality show Giuliana & Bill. The couple were about to attempt their third round of In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) when the mammogram revealed early stage breast cancer.
"Through my attempt to get pregnant, for the third time through IVF, we sadly found out that I have early stages of breast cancer. It’s been a great shock,” she told Today Show’s Ann Curry.
According to Giuliana her doctor sent her for a mammogram, before the third round of IVF-treatment, as pregnancy could accelerate the spread of any potential cancer.
A mammogram is an X-ray exam of the breast used to detect and evaluate breast changes.
“At first I did not want to go. Why should I? There’s no breast cancer in our family,” she said. She was also surprised that the doctor insisted on a mammogram as she was only 36 years old at the time and mammograms are generally not recommended for women under the age of 40, unless there is a particularly high risk of breast cancer.
Mammograms are known to be particularly poor imaging tools for finding tumours in younger women as they tend to have denser breast tissue that can look similar to a tumour, which is also dense.
'Like a kick in the stomach'
“I never in my wildest dreams expected anything to be wrong. So I went kicking and screaming, to be honest," she recalls. When she heard the news it was like a "kick in the stomach". "That was definitely the hardest day. It was incredible instant sobbing, and it was like the world just crashed down around me. I couldn't believe it, 36 years old, no family history."
The good news, though, is that early diagnosis of breast cancer is 100% treatable and because Giuliana’s breast cancer was discovered early, she is expected to make a full recovery.
"I will be OK, because I found it early," Giuliana said. She will receive surgery to remove the tumour this week, followed by six weeks of radiation treatment.
Giuliana decided to go public about her breast cancer to create awareness and encourage other women to know their breast health status.
“I want to let women know that they should not just be aware of cancer, but that they should act on it and get tested for breast cancer,” she told E! News presenter Ryan Seacrest. “The earlier you find it, the better your chances are on survival.”
"A lot of us think we're invincible but we have to start putting ourselves on the to-do list," she said. "I had a friend call me yesterday, and she said, 'I'm so sorry, can I do anything for you?' And I said, 'Just call your doctor tomorrow and make an appointment. That's what you could do for me.”
Breast cancer risk factors
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Did you know that breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting women in South Africa? Take charge of your health by doing a routine breast self-examination at least once a month and going for a mammogram once a year if you are 40 years or older, with no breast cancer risk factors.
Up to 90% of breast cancer cases are self-diagnosed, which is why it is so important to recognise the danger signs and to know how to do a breast self-examination (click on this link for Health24's step-by-step guide). If you do find a lump in your breast, don’t be afraid to go to the doctor and bear in mind that not all lumps are necessarily cancer.
The following factors are associated with an increases risk of breast cancer:
- You are 40 years or older
- You have a family history of breast cancer (for example a mother or sister who has been diagnosed with breast cancer)
- You started your period at a young age (before the age of 12)
- You went through menopause at a late stage (after the age of 55)
- You have had children after the age of 30, or not at all
- You drink more than two glasses of alcohol a day
- You are overweight or obese
- You are on postmenopausal hormone therapy
If any of these factors apply to you, you should go for checkups more regularly.