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Breast Cancer Health Center

Elizabeth Edwards: Her Breast Cancer Experience

Elizabeth Edwards talks with WebMD about her breast cancer, treatment, and more.
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"I Knew Better"

Before her breast cancer diagnosis, "I didn't get screening the way I should have," Edwards tells WebMD.

She's far from alone in that. CDC data show that in 2005, about 36% of women in their 40s, about 28% of women 50-64, and about 36% of women 65 and older hadn't gotten a mammogram in the previous two years.

"I knew better, just like they know better," Edwards says of women who delay getting routine screening mammograms.

It wasn't that Edwards was afraid of getting mammograms -- it was more about the inconvenience and temporary discomfort and the fact that she didn't think she was at risk.

"The result of that is I found out later than I could have" about the cancer, Edwards says. "Had I done the testing I needed to do, the treatment I would have gotten might not have been as aggressive."

"You don't save yourself anything" by putting screening off, Edwards says. The breast cancer is either there or it isn't, whether you get screened or not.

"It does not change the reality," Edwards says. "It only changes your options."

Edwards suggests that women buddy up with a friend to remind each other to make routine mammogram appointments and stick to them. "It never occurred to me to find a mammogram partner, but that would have been a great thing to do," she says. "I wish I had done that."

Initial Treatment

Edwards got treated for her original tumor from 2004 to 2005. First came chemotherapy to shrink the tumor, then lumpectomy -- surgery to remove the tumor while preserving as much of the breast as possible.

Besides chemotherapy and surgery, Edwards got radiation therapy, and she also triedaromatase inhibitors, which are drugs that block production of the hormone estrogen. (Edwards says her breast cancer is mildly sensitive to estrogen and another hormone, progesterone.)

Edwards says the aromatase inhibitors were "very hard on my joints," so she tried several drugs during that period before completing her treatment in May 2005.

But it wasn't just a certain type of drug that was rough. "Every part" of her initial treatment was physically hard, Edwards says.

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