Amy Robach and the Importance of Annual Mammograms Starting at 40

Pictured: Mammogram

Screening of women in their 40s can catch breast cancers early when they are more treatable.

On Thursday, November 14, Good Morning America reporter Amy Robach will undergo a bilateral mastectomy followed by reconstructive surgery for her recently diagnosed breast cancer, which was found after she underwent a mammogram broadcasted live on the show on October 1. A few weeks later, Amy found out she had breast cancer and publicly announced her diagnosis.

Amy is 40, the age Memorial Sloan Kettering recommends women of average risk begin annual mammogram screening for breast cancer. According to diagnostic radiologist Carol H. Lee, breast cancer can and does occur in women in their 40s, and screening in this population can catch cancers early when they are more treatable.

“It has been shown that screening mammography reduces breast cancer deaths, even for these younger women. Based on this evidence, a number of organizations including the American Cancer Society and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, of which Memorial Sloan Kettering is a participant, recommend annual screening mammography beginning at age 40,” Dr. Lee says.

A Cancer Found

Amy was initially reluctant to have to the mammogram, but agreed at the insistence of her GMA producer and encouragement from her colleague Robin Roberts, who is a breast cancer survivor. Robin told Amy that if her public mammogram inspired one woman to be screened, Amy’s efforts would be worth it. The cancer found, as it turned out, happened to be Amy’s.

“Many women will benefit if they follow Amy’s lead and schedule their first mammogram when they turn 40,” Dr. Lee notes. “Like Amy said in her announcement, there are ‘no excuses, it is the difference between life and death.’”

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Double Mastectomy: Not a One-Size-Fits-All Approach

While the details of Amy’s actual diagnosis are not public, earlier this week she announced on Good Morning America her plans to undergo a double mastectomy.

Breast surgeon Lisa M. Sclafani observes that this operation is not necessarily the best option for everyone.

“Recently we have heard about many women in the public eye choosing to proceed with this operation to treat their breast cancer or reduce their risk of breast cancer, but it’s important for women to understand that this surgery is extensive and may not provide the same benefit to all women considering it,” says Dr. Sclafani, who is based at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Commack in Long Island.

Breast Surgical Service Chief Monica Morrow adds that for most women with breast cancer, double mastectomy is no more likely to cure their cancer than lumpectomy and radiation, and with modern treatments the risk of cancer coming back in the area of surgery is the same with either operation.

“Most women who get cancer in one breast will not get cancer in the other breast, so bilateral mastectomy is rarely medically necessary,” notes Dr. Morrow. “The decision to have a bilateral mastectomy is one that a woman should carefully consider and discuss with her doctor based on her individual and family health history, risk factors, cancer diagnosis, and desires for present and future quality of life.”

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I, too, was diagnosed with breast cancer with my first - base line mammogram. I just celebrated this past week 13 years - cancer free! Keep positive!

My first mammo discovered bc too. 6 years out now. Everyone should get a baseline. I wish I had one to compare it to. Maybe 35 would be a good age to do a baseline.

Even if after your first mammogram no cancer was found, please have yearly mammograms. Early stage cancer was found when I had my recent mammogram.