Sept. 28, 2022 – Journalist Katie Couric announced Wednesday that she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had surgery during the summer.
In a post on her website titled Why NOT Me?, she told her story of getting a mammogram and receiving the diagnosis.
“June 21, 2022, was the first day of summer, my 8th wedding anniversary, and the day I found out I had breast cancer,” she wrote.
In May, her gynecologist reminded her that she was due for a mammogram after her last one in December 2020. On June 20, she went to her scheduled screening.
Couric, who lost her first husband, Jay Monahan, to colon cancer in 1998, said she planned to film the test to share with her audience, in the same way she had colon cancer screening while working for the Today show in 2000. She handed her phone to a technician to film it.
After the mammogram, she went to another room to get another screening with a breast ultrasound. Couric has dense breast tissue, so she routinely has a breast sonogram in addition to a mammogram, since dense breasts can make it more difficult for mammograms to detect abnormalities, she said.
The sonogram immediately detected a spot, and she had a follow-up biopsy. The next day, her doctor called and said the biopsy showed that she had breast cancer.
“I felt sick and the room started to spin,” Couric wrote. “I was in the middle of an open office, so I walked to a corner and spoke quietly, my mouth unable to keep up with the questions swirling in my head.”
What does this mean? Will I need a mastectomy? Will I need chemo? What will the next weeks, months, even years look like?
The memories of Monahan’s colon cancer diagnosis at 41 came back to her, as well as the “terrifying, gutting nine months that followed,” she wrote. She also thought of her sister Emily’s pancreatic cancer, which she later died from at age 54, and her mother-in-law Carol’s ovarian cancer, which she fought as Monahan passed away and also led to hear death.
Couric, who is 65, said other family members have had better outcomes with cancer, including her mother being diagnosed with mantle cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which was “kept at bay for a decade.” Her father had prostate cancer, which was treated with radioactive seeds, and her current husband, John, had a “tumor the size of a coconut on his liver,” which was surgically removed a few months before their wedding.
Given her family’s history of cancer, Couric’s reaction shifted from “Why me?” to “Why not me?” But no one in her family had been diagnosed with breast cancer. While researching information about breast cancer, she found that 85% of the 264,000 American women who are diagnosed with the cancer each year have no family history of it.
Couric decided to have a lumpectomy in July to remove a 2.5-centimeter tumor, “roughly the size of an olive.” She also had radiation treatment, which ended Tuesday. She’ll now take an aromatase inhibitor medication for 5 years to lower her risk of future breast cancer.
“Throughout the process, I kept thinking about two things: How lucky I was to have access to such incredible care, since so many people don’t,” she wrote. “And how lucky I was to be the beneficiary of such amazing technology. It made me feel grateful and guilty – and angry that there’s a de facto caste system when it comes to healthcare in America.”
Couric said she decided to go public with her experience to provide a teachable moment that she hopes will save lives. She plans to speak more about breast cancer awareness, diagnosis, and treatment throughout October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month worldwide.
“Please get your annual mammogram. I was six months late this time,” she wrote. “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,” such as a breast ultrasound for dense breasts, she wrote.