TV's Robin Roberts Has Breast Cancer
Co-Anchor of ABC's Good Morning America to Undergo Surgery
WebMD News Archive
July 31, 2007 -- Good Morning America co-anchor Robin Roberts
announced on air Tuesday that she has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Roberts, 46, says she will undergo surgery soon and then receive follow-up
treatment within the next few months.
"I never thought I'd be writing this ... I have breast cancer,"
Roberts writes on the Good Morning America web site. After her ABC news
colleague Joel Siegel died from colon cancer in June, Roberts worked on a
special report detailing his battle.
"That very night when I went to bed, I did a self breast exam and found
something that women everywhere fear: I found a lump," she writes. "At
first I thought, 'This can't be. I am a young, healthy woman.' Nevertheless, I
faced my fear head on and made an appointment to see the doctor. Much as I was
hoping the doctor would say it was nothing, she did a biopsy and confirmed that
the lump I'd found was indeed an early form of breast cancer."
The 'Robin Roberts Effect' on Early Breast Cancer Diagnosis
Roberts is not alone. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women,
other than skin cancer, according to statistics from the American Cancer
Society (ACS). About 178,480 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with invasive
breast cancer in 2007.
"I give Robin Roberts a tremendous amount of credit for going public
from the beginning and using her experience to help others," says Donnica
Moore, MD, a women's health expert based in Far Hills, N.J. Moore is not
"Just as we saw the 'Katie Couric effect' on the diagnosis of colon
cancer, I predict that Robin Roberts' brave announcement will produce a 'Robin
Roberts effect' in the increased diagnosis of breast cancer among all
women," she says.
After Couric underwent a colonoscopy on the Today show in March 2000,
test rates jumped nationwide.
After finding the lump, Roberts underwent both a mammogram (breast X-ray)
and an ultrasound. A breast ultrasound transmits high-frequency sound waves to
help determine if a lump is a fluid-containing cyst or a solid mass.
"The good news is that 97% of women diagnosed with stage I breast cancer
will effectively be able to be cured," she tells WebMD. It is not yet known
what stage of breast cancer Roberts has, but she did say it was early breast
"The most important thing that Roberts said on air is that 80% of women
have no risk factors other than having breasts," Moore says. "We know
that she had no family history, was an athlete, and is not significantly
overweight, and she has said she was remarkably healthy her whole life,"
African-American Women and Breast Cancer
African-American women are at greater risk for having breast cancer at a
younger age than women of other ethnicities, and their cancer is likely to be
advanced when it is diagnosed, Moore tells WebMD.
Robin Roberts' story stresses the importance of doing breast self-exams,
says Jenny Romero, MD, a medical
oncologist at the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care and Prevention in New
"People who do breast self-exams find lumps when they are smaller, and
the smaller it is, the better off you are," she says.
Unfortunately, not all cases of breast cancer can be detected on a breast
self-exam. The ACS says that breast self-exams for women without symptoms can
start in the early 20s. Women should discuss with a doctor how to perform a
breast self-exam properly, and also discuss the exam's limitations and
benefits. It is important to report new breast symptoms or changes.
The ACS also says clinical breast exams performed by a health care provider
should be done at least every three years for women in their 20s and 30s.
Starting at age 40, women should receive clinical breast exams yearly and start
yearly mammograms. Women at increased risk may need to start screening tests
earlier, with shorter intervals, and with other types of tests.