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.
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