You may not yet have heard of Colombian actress Sofia Vergara, but with star
turns in ABC's legal drama Dirty Sexy Money and in the upcoming flick
Meet the Browns, co-starring Tyler Perry -- following her breakout roles
in the movies Chasing Papi (2003) and Four Brothers (2005) -- she
will be on your radar screen soon.
The model-turned-actor has a message for young women. In 2001, while at an
L.A. endocrinologist's appointment for her son, the doctor noticed that her thyroid, a butterfly-shaped
gland located in the front of the neck, was enlarged.
He ran a few tests and his suspicions proved correct: Vergara had thyroid cancer. Other symptoms, which she did not
have, include enlarged lymph nodes in the neck, hoarseness, trouble swallowing
or breathing, and a cough unrelated to a cold.
About 33,550 new U.S. cases of thyroid cancer were diagnosed in 2007 -- nearly
two-thirds in people between the ages of 20 and 55, and mostly in women.
Vergara had her thyroid gland removed and underwent radioactive iodine
therapy, which destroys any thyroid tissue not taken out during surgery. She
also takes medication to replace the hormones normally produced by
"I feel great and I am really on top of it," says Vergara.
"Young women should be informed about thyroid cancer because you can have
it without symptoms, but an endocrinologist can check your thyroid
Her cancer also opened her eyes to others battling the disease. In late
2001, she helped create and fund Peace and Hope for Children of Colombia, which
opened a new pediatric cancer pavilion at Hospital Nino Jesus in 2003. The
center provides free chemotherapy to children and gives parents a place to stay
during treatments. "When you get cancer, you get an extra awareness of what
is going on around you, and you want to help where you can," says