Katie Couric Reveals Breast Cancer Diagnosis
NEW YORK Katie Couric, a journalist and former TV anchor, revealed Wednesday that she has been undergoing treatment for breast cancer and urged other women to be vigilant in watching out for the disease.
Couric, 65, said she was diagnosed in June after her doctor realized she was six months late for her regular preventative mammogram. She had the test and a routine breast ultrasound, which found something. A biopsy determined it was cancer.
“I felt sick and the room started to spin,” Couric wrote in an essay published Wednesday to her website. She described her treatment: Surgery in July and radiation therapy this month with yesterday being her final round.
Couric has long advocated for frequent cancer screenings after losing her first husband to colon cancer. She said she was sharing her story as a message to other women especially those like herself who might need extra screening.
“Please get your annual mammogram,” Couric wrote. “I was six months late this time. I shudder to think what might have happened if I had put it off longer. But just as importantly, please find out if you need additional screening.”
She explained that she gets routine breast ultrasounds in addition to mammograms because she has dense breast tissue, a common factor that can make abnormalities harder to find.
What Are The Types Of Breast Cancer Treatment
Surgery. For most people, the first step is to take out the tumor. An operation called lumpectomy removes only the part of your breast that has cancer. Itâs sometimes called breast-conserving surgery. In a mastectomy, doctors remove the whole breast. There are different types of mastectomies and lumpectomies.
Radiation therapy. This treatment uses high-energy waves to kill cancer cells. Most women under age 70 who have a lumpectomy get radiation, too. Doctors also might recommend this method if the disease has spread. It helps destroy any cancer cells that the surgeon couldnât remove. Radiation can come from a machine outside your body, or you might have tiny seeds that give off radiation placed inside your breast where the tumor was.
Other treatments destroy or control cancer cells all over your body:
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. You take the medicines as pills or through an IV. Most people get it after surgery to kill any cancer cells left behind. Doctors also prescribe it before surgery to make tumors smaller. Chemo works well against cancer, but it also can harm healthy cells.
Immunotherapy uses your own immune system to target cancer. The drugs atezolizumab and sacituzumab govitecan-hziy have been approved to treat triple-negative breast cancer that has spread.
How Long You Should Take It
Based on clear evidence from two large randomized phase III clinical studies , a 10-year rather than a 5-year adjuvant treatment with tamoxifen is associated with a smaller risk of recurrence and a reduction in breast cancer mortality.
This reduction in breast cancer recurrence must be weighed against potential side effects for each person. For example, if your cancer has a relatively high risk of recurrence , the benefit of longer treatment may clearly outweigh the risk. In contrast, if your tumor has a very low risk of recurrence, the potential adverse effects of tamoxifen may outweigh the potential benefit.
For men with early-stage breast cancer, tamoxifen is recommended for 5 years, with the option of continuing the medication for another 5 years for those at high risk of recurrence.
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Dealing With Visible Side Effects Of Treatment
You may be able to see some of the side effects of breast cancer treatment, and this can take an emotional toll. But thereâs a lot you can do to overcome them, and that can help you feel better.
If you’ve had a mastectomy, you can use an external prosthesis instead of, or before, breast reconstruction surgery. You tuck it into a bra or attach it to your skin with double-sided tape.
If you chose to get one:
- Ask your doctor for a prescription for an external prosthesis. Then, it can usually be covered by insurance.
- Ask your oncologist for referral to a specialized store that sells external prostheses. You may also find them in some lingerie departments.
- Make an appointment with a breast prosthesis consultant and allow yourself about an hour to get fitted.
- Try a variety of them to see which feels and looks the best on you.
Some chemotherapy kills fast-growing cells like hair follicles, whether those cells are cancer or not. Hair loss is different for everyone, and it depends on the type of chemo you’re taking. Radiation and hormonal treatments may also cause this side effect.
If you lose hair from chemo, it’s likely to fall out within 1 to 2 weeks of starting treatment. It may thin or fall out almost all at once. It’s common to lose hair over your whole body, not just on your head. This means you may lose eyelashes and eyebrows as well as arm, leg, and pubic hair.
Here are some other tips that may help:
Weight gain or loss
Help Getting Through Cancer Treatment
People with cancer need support and information, no matter what stage of illness they may be in. Knowing all of your options and finding the resources you need will help you make informed decisions about your care.
Whether you are thinking about treatment, getting treatment, or not being treated at all, you can still get supportive care to help with pain or other symptoms. Communicating with your cancer care team is important so you understand your diagnosis, what treatment is recommended, and ways to maintain or improve your quality of life.
Different types of programs and support services may be helpful, and can be an important part of your care. These might include nursing or social work services, financial aid, nutritional advice, rehab, or spiritual help.
The American Cancer Society also has programs and services including rides to treatment, lodging, and more to help you get through treatment. Call our National Cancer Information Center at 1-800-227-2345 and speak with one of our trained specialists.
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What Is The Recovery Time After Chemotherapy For Breast Cancer
When you finish chemotherapy, you may have remaining side effects of treatment. These symptoms may take months or weeks to go away. You may still experience:
- Hair changes, such as hair growing back a different color or texture.
- Nausea or vomiting for two to three weeks.
- Tiredness or fatigue for three to six months.
- Stress or chemo brain for six months to a year.
Accelerated Partial Breast Irradiation
After whole breast radiation or even after surgery alone, most breast cancers tend to come back very close to the area where the tumor was removed . For this reason, some doctors are using accelerated partial breast irradiation in selected women to give larger doses over a shorter time to only one part of the breast compared to the entire breast . Since more research is needed to know if these newer methods will have the same long-term results as standard radiation, not all doctors use them. There are several different types of accelerated partial breast irradiation:
- Intraoperative radiation therapy : In this approach, a single large dose of radiation is given to the area where the tumor was removed in the operating room right after BCS . IORT requires special equipment and is not widely available.
- 3D-conformal radiotherapy : In this technique, the radiation is given with special machines so that it is better aimed at the tumor bed. This spares more of the surrounding normal breast tissue. Treatments are given twice a day for 5 days or daily for 2 weeks.
- Intensity-modulated radiotherapy : IMRT is like 3D-CRT, but it also changes the strength of some of the beams in certain areas. This gets stronger doses to certain parts of the tumor bed and helps lessen damage to nearby normal body tissues.
- Brachytherapy: See brachytherapy below.
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What Are The Side Effects Of Chemotherapy For Breast Cancer
Chemotherapy side effects vary based on what kind of drugs you take and for how long. Common chemotherapy side effects include:
- Numbness or tingling.
During chemotherapy treatment, many people still work, exercise and care for their families. For others, the treatment can be exhausting and time-consuming. It may be difficult to keep up with usual activities.
Speak with your healthcare provider about the risks and benefits of chemotherapy. You may manage side effects with supportive medications, such as anti-nausea drugs. Chemotherapy side effects generally go away after you finish treatment.
Possible Serious Side Effects With Herceptin Hylecta
Not all people have serious side effects, but side effects with HERCEPTIN HYLECTA therapy are common.
Although some people may have a life-threatening side effect, most do not.
Your doctor will stop treatment if any serious side effects occur.
HERCEPTIN HYLECTA is not for everyone. Be sure to contact your doctor if you are experiencing any of the following:
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How To Make A Treatment Plan
After a diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer, its helpful to take the time you need to gather as much information as possible. Once you are ready, you can make plans and informed decisions about your care, treatment, and quality of life.
You may already have a medical oncologist if this is a recurrence of a previous breast cancer diagnosis. If appropriate, your oncologist can recommend other specialists who can join your medical team. Together, you will develop a metastatic breast cancer treatment plan.
If metastatic breast cancer is your first breast cancer diagnosis , you probably dont have a medical oncologist. Your primary care physician can recommend an oncologist and other specialists to you so you can put together your medical team.
The doctors on your medical team may be involved in your care at the same time or at different points throughout your care. Either way, everyone on your medical team needs to communicate with one another about your tests and treatments.
Your breast cancer medical team may include a number of specialists:
You may meet with some of these specialists in person, while others will consult only with your medical oncologist.
If youve been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, its important to communicate with your medical team to ensure youre getting the support you need.
Some questions you may want to ask include:
Do you plan to do a biopsy of the metastatic cancer? Why or why not?
improve quality of life
Physical Emotional And Social Effects Of Cancer
In general, cancer and its treatment cause physical symptoms and side effects, as well as emotional, social, and financial effects. Managing all of these effects is called palliative care or supportive care. It is an important part of your care that is included along with treatments intended to slow, stop, or eliminate the cancer.
Supportive care focuses on improving how you feel during treatment by managing symptoms and supporting patients and their families with other, non-medical needs. Any person, regardless of age or type and stage of cancer, may receive this type of care. And it often works best when it is started right after a cancer diagnosis. People who receive supportive care along with treatment for the cancer often have less severe symptoms, better quality of life, and report that they are more satisfied with treatment.
Supportive care treatments vary widely and often include medication, nutritional changes, relaxation techniques, emotional and spiritual support, and other therapies.
Music therapy, meditation, stress management, and yoga for reducing anxiety and stress.
Meditation, relaxation, yoga, massage, and music therapy for depression and to improve other mood problems.
Meditation and yoga to improve general quality of life.
Acupressure and acupuncture to help with nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy.
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How Does Hormone Therapy Work
About 2 out of 3 breast cancers are hormone receptor-positive. Their cells have receptors for estrogen and/or progesterone which help the cancer cells grow and spread.
There are several types of hormone therapy for breast cancer. Most types of hormone therapy either lower estrogen levels in the body or stop estrogen from helping breast cancer cells grow.
When Is Hormone Therapy Used For Breast Cancer
Hormone therapy is often used after surgery to help reduce the risk of the cancer coming back. Sometimes it is started before surgery .
It is usually taken for at least 5 years. Treatment longer than 5 years might be offered to women whose cancers have a higher chance of coming back. A test called the Breast Cancer Index might be used to help decide if a woman will benefit from more than 5 years of hormone therapy.
Hormone therapy can also be used to treat cancer that has come back after treatment or that has spread to other parts of the body.
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When You Might Have Targeted Treatment
Targeted cancer drugs are used in different situations to treat breast cancer. You might have this treatment :
- before surgery to shrink a cancer
- after surgery to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back
You might also have this treatment if your cancer comes back or if you have breast cancer that has spread to another part of the body . You may have it on its own, with other targeted drugs, or with other treatments such as chemotherapy.
There are many different types of targeted drugs. We describe some of the drugs used for breast cancer below.
How Do I Know Which Breast Cancer Treatment To Choose
Your doctor will think about a few things before they recommend a treatment for you:
- The type of breast cancer you have
- The size of your tumor and how far the cancer has spread in your body, called the stage of your disease
- Whether your tumor has things called receptors for HER2 protein, estrogen, and progesterone, or other specific features.
Your age, whether youâve gone through menopause, other health conditions you have, and your personal preferences also play a role in this decision-making process.
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What Is Inpatient Chemotherapy
inpatient chemotherapy. inpatient hospital stays for surgery to remove or treat cancer. skilled nursing facility care after a 3-day hospital stay. home healthcare, such as physical and occupational therapy. surgically implanted breast prostheses after a mastectomy, when the surgery takes place at an inpatient facility.
Possible Side Effects Of External Beam Radiation
The main short-term side effects of external beam radiation therapy to the breast are:
- Swelling in the breast
- Skin changes in the treated area similar to a sunburn
Your health care team may advise you to avoid exposing the treated skin to the sun because it could make the skin changes worse. Most skin changes get better within a few months. Changes to the breast tissue usually go away in 6 to 12 months, but it can take longer.
External beam radiation therapy can also cause side effects later on:
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The Effects Of Breast Cancer On Emotional Processing
Breast cancer is a major stressful event but its a part of your journey and not what defines who you are. There appears to be more out there about how to deal with the physical symptoms of breast cancer.it may be difficult to find resources explaining how you navigate the emotions after breast cancer. This element of your path is vital as your coping mechanisms to stress can have impacts on your health. Consequently, finding ways to express and deal with your emotions after breast cancer add a layer of protection which helps you along the way to healing. The most important thing I want you to take from this post is that no one can tell you what you should be feeling but you must give yourself permission to feel. If we look at the research, avoiding or suppressing emotions has shown to be linked to higher distress, anxiety, and depression in breast cancer survivors. Stress itself also affects cognitive functioning as well as the ability to process emotions.
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Preparing For Lymph Node Removal
Your surgeon may recommend removing lymph nodes near your armpit to see whether cancer has spread beyond the breast. Surgery to remove a few lymph nodes is often recommended for early-stage breast cancer. If cancer was found in a lymph node before surgery or if theres a concern that the cancer has spread, your surgeon may recommend removing a number of lymph nodes near your armpit .
Lymph node removal procedures include:
Sentinel node biopsy. During this procedure your surgeon removes only the first one or two nodes into which the cancer drains . These are then tested for cancer. Your doctor may recommend this procedure if there are no concerns about enlarged lymph nodes prior to your surgery.
Before your surgery, a radioactive substance or blue dye or both is injected into the area around the cancer or the skin above the cancer. The dye travels to the sentinel node or nodes, allowing your surgeon to identify and remove them.
If no cancer is present in the lymph nodes, no further lymph nodes need to be removed. If cancer is present, the surgeon will discuss options, such as receiving radiation to the armpit. If this is what you decide to do, you will not need to have more lymph nodes in the armpit removed.
- Axillary lymph node dissection. During this procedure, the surgeon removes a number of lymph nodes from your armpit. Your surgeon may recommend this procedure if a lymph node biopsy done before surgery shows signs of cancer.
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