Katie Couric's breast cancer: What other women can learn from her diagnosis

Longtime television journalist Katie Couric announced this week that she was diagnosed with breast cancer in June of this year and has now undergone successful surgery to remove a 2.5-centimeter tumor. 

"Every two minutes, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States. On June 21st, I became one of them," Couric tweeted on Sept. 28, 2022.

Couric decided to have "breast conservation" surgery followed by radiation and medication, as Fox News Digital just reported.

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Mammography and ultrasound are lifesaving tools — and women need to put mammography at the top of their to-do list, Dr. Marisa Weiss, chief medical officer and founder of Breastcancer.org, told Fox News Digital in a phone interview.

Katie Couric announced this week that she's being treated for breast cancer. Her husband, Jay, passed away of colon cancer in 1998 — and in 2000, she aired her own colonoscopy on TV to raise a greater awareness of important screening tests. Now, a breast screening test known as a breast ultrasound helped her doctor identify Couric's breast cancer. 

Katie Couric announced this week that she's being treated for breast cancer. Her husband, Jay, passed away of colon cancer in 1998 — and in 2000, she aired her own colonoscopy on TV to raise a greater awareness of important screening tests. Now, a breast screening test known as a breast ultrasound helped her doctor identify Couric's breast cancer.  (Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for EPIX)

Dr. Weiss currently practices at Lankenau Medical Center in Wynnewood, Penn., where she serves as director of breast radiation oncology and director of breast health outreach.

"Breast cancer is the most common cancer to affect women," said Weiss. 

"And there is an opportunity to find it early and save lives. Our best tool to find breast cancer early before it spreads to other parts of the body is mammography — digital mammography."

"Mammography could save your life. It can help you get the best and most effective treatment with the least side effects."

She added, "Mammography could save your life. It can help you get the best and most effective treatment with the least side effects."

Dr. Weiss said that it is critical to find breast cancer early, "when it can be the most effectively treated with the least aggressive therapies."

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She also said, "Most breast cancer is found through mammography. Roughly, a third or 40 percent is found through mammography, 20-25% is found through physical exam alone and the rest of cases are found with a combination of the two."

A woman is shown getting a mammogram. Some women also need to have a breast ultrasound, which provides more information to doctors. 

A woman is shown getting a mammogram. Some women also need to have a breast ultrasound, which provides more information to doctors.  (iStock)

Weiss said the "best shot at early detection" depends on "high quality mammography done early — each year starting at age 40."

She also said that many women "are coming in with much later stages of disease because their mammogram slipped off their schedule during the [COVID] pandemic."

Weiss noted that this is "particularly true for people who have less access to quality care."

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"The people who are most likely to have a delayed diagnosis, because of the pandemic and having a harder time getting access to mammography, are people who are [among] under-represented populations," she noted.

If a woman's doctor advises an ultrasound of the breast after a mammogram, the doctor is looking for more information about a potential trouble spot.

"Black women are more likely to be diagnosed with later stages of disease and at an earlier age," she said.

If a woman's doctor advises an ultrasound of the breast after a mammogram, the doctor is looking for more information on a potential trouble spot, said Weiss.

"Ultrasound is generally not a screening test," said Weiss, "but a supplemental test. If you see anything you’re concerned about, ultrasound — which uses sound waves — can see what is going on in that location."

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An ultrasound can find a "lump, irregularity, or architectural distortion" in the breast, she noted.

Katie Couric openly discussed her breast cancer diagnosis this week. "Because my breasts are dense," she wrote, "I routinely get an additional screening using a breast ultrasound."

Katie Couric openly discussed her breast cancer diagnosis this week. "Because my breasts are dense," she wrote, "I routinely get an additional screening using a breast ultrasound." (AP)

"It's another way to look at the breast, can be very helpful to in deciding if it’s a fluid-filled structure, like a cyst, or a solid spot like a nodule that could be cancer," she explained.

Ultrasounds contain "no radiation, so it's used regularly," said Weiss. 

"If a mammogram shows anything that’s a little bit questionable, it’s a nice add-on, particularly if you’re a young person."

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She emphasized, "Mammography could save your life. It can help you get the best and most effective treatment with the least side effects."

She added, "Our life is our greatest gift, and it’s our job to take care of ourselves."

Deirdre Reilly is a senior editor in Lifestyle with Fox News Digital. 

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