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Andrea Mitchell, NBC News Anchor, Announces Her Breast Cancer

By September 9, 2011

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Andrea Mitchell
Andrea Mitchell
Photo Getty Images/Stephen J. Boitano

Public figures and celebrities, like the rest of us, have no special immunity from breast cancer. And even strong personalities may be shaken when they find out that they must fight cancer within their own bodies. Mitchell, who will turn 65 in late October, announced her diagnosis on television just two days ago. She informed her audience that her cancer had been found early, had not spread beyond the original site, and that her prognosis was "terrific."

After making her diagnosis public, and perhaps thinking of the upcoming Breast Cancer Awareness Month, she said, "This disease can be completely cured if you find it at the right time." Her tumor had been discovered during a routine screening mammogram and her intention was to urge more women not to skip breast screening. "Screening works," she said. "Do it."

If your everyday soccer mom had made the same announcement, I'll bet that no eyebrows would have been raised and no controversy over her statements would have ensued. But Mitchell's public revelation sparked a public discussion on the real benefits of screening mammography. Many journalists said that Mitchell should have gotten her facts straight - so let's be clear: mammograms are not a treatment and do not cure breast cancer. Mammograms sometimes fail to detect cancer, so ultrasounds, MRI, and other tests are used as diagnostic tools. Right now, breast cancer is still being researched and the exact causes are unclear, but there are good treatments for early-stage breast cancer. There is no "complete cure" for breast cancer. Mitchell is getting chided and slammed in the blogosphere and print media for making those statements, and saying that she is now part of the "1 in 8" stastic, even when she is 65 and therefore at increased risk for this disease.

However, I think Andrea Mitchell is very human. Her announcement was of a personal nature, and we may forgive her for reciting phrases and statistics that many women kick around every day. Mitchell wasn't giving us a news item - she was telling us about her emotional as well as physical condition. In times of stress, we sometimes fall back on familiar things and put the best spin on bad news. While we often hold news anchors to a high standard for accuracy on the facts, I think it's okay to forgive her statements, move on, and wish her the best outcome from her treatments.

Got a comment on this? Please sound off right here.

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September 9, 2011 at 8:30 pm
(1) Pat Farr says:

You have got to be kidding! Ms. Mitchell spoke to us from her immediate emotions, from a positive belief in her health care team, and I suspect, from a reassuring and caring place in her heart for her many viewers.

I have just had my 3rd breast cancer diagnosis – the first was 25 years ago. Each time a mammogram enabled me to “catch” the disease at an early stage. Whatever the statistical evidence that is out there – I will advocate for yearly mammography after age 40 (my first diagnosis was at 42). I’ve had 1 lumpectomy, 1 mastectomy plus chemo 14 years ago, and then another mastectomy 1 month ago. And the 3rd diagnois was insitu – that is considered to be Stage 1 breast cancer. I would have said 25 years ago the same thing as Ms Mitchell said 2 days ago – my prognosis was terrific. That is not saying “cured”. But with diligent oversight (exams and mammograms every 6 months) I can say today, 25 years later, that my prognosis is still “Terrific.”
Pat Farr
Santa Fe, New Mexico

September 10, 2011 at 8:25 am
(2) Carol Martini says:

I heard you speak on The Today Show this morning and I want to thank you for telling your story about breast cancer. We women have to get over the fear that a breast cancer diagnosis is a death sentence. Caught early the outcome can be excellent. I know. My breast cancer was caught in my first mammogram 20 years ago and I have been cancer free since then. Best wishes for a successful treatment.

September 10, 2011 at 8:38 am
(3) Claudine says:

Thank you for telling your story. Last year I was diagnosed at35. My first baseline mammogram. I had a bi-lateral mastectomy with reconstruction at once.
As you mentioned early detection is the best, but it still blows my mind that we put an age to mammograms.
I happen to be lucky as my doctor wrote me a prescription and said it’s alway good to start early.
If I waited till 40 I’m not sure my cancer might have been stage 2 or 3

September 10, 2011 at 9:53 am
(4) danea walters says:

Thank-you Andrea for bringing more awareness to this terrible disease. I too was diagnosed with stage 2b breast last year, after a routine mammogram. I was 55 years old, no family history of breast cancer, and had no symptoms. Needless to say, I was shocked. Mammograms are not foolproof but they saved my life. We need to keep educating women everywhere on the importance of breast exams. I was one of those women who thought it wouldn’t happen to me and it did!!!

September 10, 2011 at 10:15 am
(5) Norma says:

A friend has started a program for encouraging women that have been recently diagnosed with breast cancer. No money involved, just simply hand writing a letter or card of encouraging support. She has been interviewed by newspapers, radio and recently TV. Check out her website. http://www.facebook.com/GirlsLoveMail

September 10, 2011 at 11:24 am
(6) Linda Hatchell says:

Ms. Mitchell – I have watched your reports for years and years and you are truly a timeless beauty. I had a double mastecomy in December 2009 with reconstruction. I was 51 having my first mammogram when diagnosed with stage 2 in the left breast. I fought to have them both removed because I felt I would be so worried about getting it in the right breast that I would lose my mind. The whole thing was stressfull enough, but things are looking good regarding the breast cancer today. I wish you well.

September 10, 2011 at 11:40 am
(7) Evelyn Moore says:

I think you are very brave and caring to come forward regarding your recent operation for breast cancer. Thank goodness, it was in an early stage. Women, especially young women, will put off getting a mammogram. By you coming forward, it will help some women realize the importance of yearly mammograms.

September 10, 2011 at 2:03 pm
(8) Claudia Fauver says:

Something that women need to remember, other than feeling for lumps and getting their yearly mammo, is to check for ANY change in their breast. Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) rarely presents with a lump and, therefore, is usually not detected by a routine mammogram. Learn the signs and symptoms of IBC and safe a life…it might be your own.

Since being diagnosed with IBC in 2007 and learning that my doctors didn’t have much info on the symptoms or how to treat IBC, I’ve become an advocate for IBC education and volunteer with the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Foundation (website at http://www.eraseibc.com) to help educate the general public and the medical professionals about the signs and symptoms of IBC and the correct treatment for it.

Early detection? We can’t even be diagnosed with IBC before we’re a stage III, and routine mammos don’t usually catch it (unless the tech knows that he/she is looking for the “sheeting” or “nesting” of the tumors and not a solid lump.

Good luck to Andrea and good luck to all the stage IV women and men who were also detected early.

September 13, 2011 at 8:11 pm
(9) Lorene Frigaard says:

I am so very glad that a mammogram detected your breast cancer presumably before it has had a chance to spread. I was diagnosed with an invasive carcinoma in 2003, and had a radical mastectomy. Although cancer wasn’t detectable in the surrounding tissue, nor in any of the 16 lymph nodes that were removed, by 2007, I learned that my breast cancer had metastasized to my bones (just like Elizabeth Edwards). I am still receiving treatment and am currently on Taxol chemotherapy. I am thrilled that the mammogram picked up what my physician didn’t a few days before the mammogram when he gave me a physical exam. Unfortunately, I am not going to survive indefinitely, but I have had a very good 8 1/2 years since first being diagnosed, and I do consider myself extremely lucky! Good luck to you Andrea.

September 14, 2011 at 9:07 am
(10) Jo Ann Green says:

I would like to add a symptom of breast cancer that I have rarely seen published. In early June of this year I was looking at my breasts in the mirror and noticed that the right one was a bit smaller than the left one and had a dimple or pucker in it when I raised my right arm. A mammogram showed a growth too small to be felt in a routine self-exam, but which felt like a small ridge when located on an ultra-sound. It turned out to be very early stage II breast cancer (the tumor was one mm. beyond stage I), and I had a simple mastectomy a month after my 73rd birthday. There was no cancer in the lymph nodes or in my bones, and I have an excellent chance to remain cancer free.

September 14, 2011 at 9:12 am
(11) Cylb says:

It is always a shock to learn you have cancer and I’m sure Andrea Mitchell is still digesting the information she is receiving. Thank you for sharing this information on your diagnosis.

I was diagnosed with Stage 3, invasive carcinoma in late October 2001. I was 49 years old. I discovered the lump through my own self-exam. Even after the doctor felt the lump, when I was given the mammogram it came up as a clean exam. So, no, the mammogram doesn’t always see the lump even after it has been discovered through touch.

September 14, 2011 at 9:13 am
(12) Mary Anne says:

Like Andrea Mitchell, I was diagnosed in situ (DCIS) at Stage 0 with an extension into the lobes – at age 64. The spots were in 3 spots in my right breast which indicated that I needed a simple mastectomy. The lymph nodes were all fine. I had no radiation or chemo. Today I am doing fine and I am going on 4 years this October out from my diagnosis. I am reminded however constantly that there is no “cure” as recently I met a nurse, and in conversation mentioned that I had had breast cancer and a mastectomy. She asked when and I watched her count the years out with the fingers on her left hand – that reminded me that I won’t ever be safe from it but if I can make it out 5 years I have a pretty good chance…

September 14, 2011 at 9:26 am
(13) Verite Reily Collins says:

Well done Ms Mitchell for announcing her cancer in front of viewers. She is trying to be positive and upbeat, and those who complain about her choice of words should be put in the same hot seat, with cameras blinding you, and having to talk about a very scary thing that is happening to you.
So what if she didn’t use what others consider the ‘right’ words. Who is to say what she should have said at a difficult time for her. She must be feeling awful, and to have people carping at her choice of words, when everything emotional will be heightened, is cruel.
Give her love and understand, and pray that she recovers fully.

September 14, 2011 at 9:41 am
(14) Marjorie says:

I had a mixed reaction over Anders Mitchell’s on air announcement. My first was as a fellow survivor and a sense of compassion for her situation. She said “early” but that is a loaded term as those who are involved in research know. Cancer does not always behave according to the stage when it is discovered.

As a public figure on a national news show, Andrea is held to a higher standard when she uses that platform to quote or misquote statistics. That’s the part that made so many research advocates cringe.

We all believe our stories are the norm and we must hope that we will be on the best part of the survival curve. For those who aren’t, the misrepresentation of the truth about breast cancer feels like an ongoing assault. Finding a balance for compassion and a respect for truth telling is an ongoing struggle in the breast cancer community. It’s always personal and emotional. Too often, it’s deadly and the 40,000 who die of this disease in the U.S annually aren’t here to weigh in on this.

Everyone wishes Andrea well.

September 14, 2011 at 10:11 am
(15) Cheryl says:

Mammograms don’t find up to 12% of cancers.
We should push for breast MRI’s-they show all cancers.

I stupidly thought a lump I felt was “nothing” because it did no show on mammogram;dx in April with DCIS and 2 separate invasive ductal carcinomas with mets to shoulder.

September 14, 2011 at 12:08 pm
(16) Sandra says:

I too was diaignosed with breast cancer four years ago and had a lumpectomy and sentinel lymph node dissection treated with radiation. On my recent mammogram, recurrent cancer was detected, mastectomy anda postive axillary node dissection and a dx as stage 2. I now start on a journey of Chemotherapy then Radiation and hope for the best.
I applaud women and men in the media and celebrities who openly acknowledge their diagnosis of cancer. It helps to bring attention to this terrible disease and those of us not in the limelight can take some comfort that our voices are being heard via these men and women who do have a voice.
Thanks you Andrea, and all those who are brave enough to tell the rest of us that you are not alone.
You speak for us.

September 14, 2011 at 12:09 pm
(17) Yucca says:

Breast cancer is a unique experience for each patient, while it is also a shared experience for all breast cancer patients. Anders Michell is a woman with breast cancer: speaking from her understanding & experience with this medical issue. If it’s seen simply as her personal statement on the subject & not as an expert opinion, it makes perfect sense. This is now Anders Michell thinks about breat cancer. My personal take on breast cancer is very different, because it
s my personal understanding & experience. Unfortunately a lot of people accept what others say, without researching it for themselves. As a breast cancer survivor, I realize it’s a complex issue & when people ask, what can I do to avoid breast cancer or other questions: I tell them… my experience might be very different than yours. Early detection can be very important. You need to get the facts from a reputable source, to be aware of the issues of breast cancer & to be proactive about you health.

September 14, 2011 at 1:24 pm
(18) Pat Elliott says:

I am both a breast cancer survivor and journalist. I share the desire to support Andrea Mitchell in her own health situation and appreciate the attention that comes from a well known person’s public announcement about any form of cancer.

At the same time, I can’t ignore the fact that there are ethics for journalists, and she has an obligation to use her platform appropriately when she decides to use it. She also has access to experts that the ordinary person can’t access.

Hopefully the outcry over her comments will be a learning experience and encourage her to gain a better understanding of issues in the patient community and work toward helping others better understand them in the future. Let’s give her some time and encourage her to spend some of it talking with, and learning from, real women who’ve lived longer with the impact of breast cancer and breast cancer hype.

September 14, 2011 at 1:42 pm
(19) MYLA SEIDEL says:

This November i will be 8 years cancer free. i do not say in remission as that sounds like i expect it to come back.

i have to use a walker and of course i got a bright pink one. the comments on it leads to reminding ladies to get that mammogram. a year ago i broke my foot and you guessed it, i had a bright pink cast put on.

September 14, 2011 at 2:46 pm
(20) Linda says:

Every single instance of breast cancer is different. I continue to believe that no two women can be compared due to the infinite number of control factors. I am happy her prognosis is “terrific”, although I urge all women (diagnosed or not) to be vigilant with actions related to this disease and others.

My 42 year old sister received a “terrific” prognosis and died within seven years. I also lost my mother to the disease yet her circumstances were completely different. My breast cancer did not show up on a mammography, but I could feel it. I was also tested for the gene and was negative.

I believe it’s important to get all the current facts. The only advice I feel comfortable giving to the women in my cancer support group is this: Make decisions based on current facts and decisions you will never live to regret. Make decisions you can live with and that help you sleep at night, not decisions that keep you up all night always wondering…


September 15, 2011 at 4:02 pm
(21) nou says:

thanks for article..
find other similar article at http://newsonlineupdate.com

September 16, 2011 at 11:41 am
(22) Lu Hubert says:

My goodness!!! She spoke from her heart and her very beat-up emotions. Even if you get a really good prognosis from all the tests, you still run an emotional gamut and you still want people not to pity you. What she said was OK in her circumstances and encouraging women to get mammograms can’t be wrong. Some of the critics should stop nit-picking and look for the positive outcome for all the women she reaches.

September 16, 2011 at 7:33 pm
(23) Vickie says:

Cut the poor woman some slack. She IS human and frankly, I applaud her strength and courage it took to face cameras at a time when you have to know her emotions were raw and reeling. I have been there and was a blubbering fool when I made my announcement just to friends and family, much less a TV audience. Hang in there, Andrea. You are a class act all the way. There are always going to be people who are critical regardless. Ignore them all! Save your energy for getting well.The cancer journey will be tough, but you are a tough lady and will get through this. You have MANY fans!

September 19, 2011 at 11:53 am
(24) Nancy's Point says:

Of course we all wish the best for Andrea Mitchell and thank her for sharing her story. However, as a professional journalist with a huge platform, she needs to have her facts in order even when sharing a personal story. Her words were being scrutinized, not her. Huge difference.

February 23, 2013 at 7:41 am
(25) danni says:

I believe it is the medical community that have us confused and downgrade stage 0 as it being someithing curable. If you search on the internet there is a huge controversy of this even called caner or pre-cancer. Let’s not be too hard on the patients when the scientific community can’t even understand this.

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