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Katie Couric speaks out about breast cancer diagnosis, says she’s ‘feeling fine’

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Katie Couric has shared an update about her breast cancer treatment, revealing that she is ‘feeling fine’ after completing radiation – while detailing the heartbreaking moment she told her daughters about her diagnosis.     

The 65-year-old spoke about her cancer diagnosis in an interview with the Today show, during which she emphasized just how ‘lucky’ she feels to have caught the illness early enough to treat. 

Couric admitted it wasn’t easy telling her daughters, Ellie, 31, and Caroline, 26, that she had cancer, adding that she waited a ‘few days’ to ‘process’ her diagnosis before breaking the news. 

‘I was nervous about it. I waited a few days so I could process it and really understand what we were dealing with,’ she said.

‘I told them, but I was very reassuring but I saw on their faces, you know, it’s just hard to deliver that news, no matter how you do it. 

Katie Couric has opened up about her treatment plan following her breast cancer diagnosis and even shared she has been ‘feeling fine’ after undergoing radiation

The 65-year-old spoke about her cancer diagnosis in an interview with the Today show to discuss her treatment and emphasize how 'lucky' she feels

The 65-year-old spoke about her cancer diagnosis in an interview with the Today show to discuss her treatment and emphasize how ‘lucky’ she feels

Couric is pictured on July 7 - two weeks after her diagnosis and one week before she underwent a lumpectomy procedure to remove the cancerous tissue from her breast

Couric is pictured on July 7 – two weeks after her diagnosis and one week before she underwent a lumpectomy procedure to remove the cancerous tissue from her breast

‘But I assured them that I was going to be fine. And Carrie came with me when I got my lumpectomy, when I was being wheeled into the operating room. She was singing ”The Arms of an Angel.” She’s so funny… They’ve been incredibly supportive.’

The former Today co-anchor also revealed she hadn’t been feeling any effects after completing radiation. 

‘I’m feeling just fine. I finished radiation last week. They said it makes you tired. I was actually not too tired from it,’ the former co-anchor revealed. 

Although Couric admitted she was six months late getting her mammogram, she noted that she’s grateful she got it when she did. 

She added: ‘I just feel super lucky that it was diagnosed when it was, that I went, even though I was late, that I went when I did.’

The former Today co-anchor also spoke about her radiologist’s life-saving decision to act fast after she saw something on Couric’s breast. 

‘She said, ”I think there’s something we really need to biopsy and I want to do it today.” 

‘So I thought, ”Oh my, God, you must be kidding me,” And then when I found out the next day, she called me. I was pretty stunned and I think those words ”it’s cancerous” or ”you have cancer” do stop you in their tracks, but she told me it was treatable. We needed to have a plan.’

In a candid personal essay Couric shared the heartwrenching moment she told her children, Ellie, 31, and Caroline, 26, that she had cancer

In a candid personal essay Couric shared the heartwrenching moment she told her children, Ellie, 31, and Caroline, 26, that she had cancer

Although Couric admitted she was six months late getting her mammogram, she noted that she's grateful she got it when she did

Although Couric admitted she was six months late getting her mammogram, she noted that she’s grateful she got it when she did

Couric wrote that her diagnosis came on her eighth wedding anniversary with second husband John - after she underwent a routine mammogram that raised concerns with her doctor

Couric wrote that her diagnosis came on her eighth wedding anniversary with second husband John – after she underwent a routine mammogram that raised concerns with her doctor

The news of her treatment plan comes just one week after she revealed she was diagnosed with stage 1A breast cancer, which is the earliest stage, just over 24 years after her first husband Jay Monahan died of colorectal cancer.

The 65-year-old shared the news in a candid personal essay published on her website on Wednesday, when she opened up about her terror at hearing her diagnosis, while detailing the heartbreaking moment she told her children, Ellie and Caroline that she had cancer. 

‘Finally, four days after I was diagnosed, I FaceTimed each of them,’ she said. ‘I tried to be as reassuring as Dr. Newman. Their faces froze in disbelief. Then shock. Then they began to cry.’

She added: ‘They’d already lost one parent [Couric’s first husband Jay]. The idea of losing another was unfathomable.’

Couric wrote that her diagnosis came on June 21 – her eighth wedding anniversary with second husband John – after she underwent a routine mammogram that raised concerns with her doctor. 

According to the former NBC host, her doctor urged her to have a biopsy to ‘check out’ something that had come up during her screening, with the medical professional noting that ‘it could be scar tissue’ but that she would ‘feel more comfortable’ doing further tests. 

‘Ugh. I wasn’t super stoked about having a needle penetrate my breast to extract several tissue samples, but I was grateful she was being so thorough,’ Couric wrote. 

The TV host said that, after her diagnosis, she immediately began thinking about the people in her life who had lost their battles with cancer - including first husband Jay who died at age 42

The TV host said that, after her diagnosis, she immediately began thinking about the people in her life who had lost their battles with cancer – including first husband Jay who died at age 42  

She detailed the heartbreaking moment that she shared the news with her daughters, Ellie and Caroline, writing: 'They began to cry. They’d already lost one parent. The idea of losing another was unfathomable'

She detailed the heartbreaking moment that she shared the news with her daughters, Ellie and Caroline, writing: ‘They began to cry. They’d already lost one parent. The idea of losing another was unfathomable’

‘I left with gauze in my bra and the promise she would be in touch.’

The following day, Couric received a text from her doctor asking her to call the office urgently. She was then delivered the heartwrenching news about her diagnosis. 

‘I felt sick and the room started to spin,’ the mother-of-two recalled. ‘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.’

Couric said that her mind was quickly flooded with thoughts about the other people in her life who had passed away from the disease. 

Her first husband Jay died in January 1998 at the age of 42 after being diagnosed with colorectal cancer; her sister Emily passed away in October 2001 at age 54 from pancreatic cancer; and her mother-in-law Carol died of ovarian cancer in 1999, one year and nine months after her son Jay passed. 

Couric shared that her second husband John Molner (seen together in May) 'had a tumor the size of a coconut on his liver, which was surgically removed just a few months before we got married'

Couric shared that her second husband John Molner (seen together in May) ‘had a tumor the size of a coconut on his liver, which was surgically removed just a few months before we got married’

‘The heart-stopping, suspended animation feeling I remember all too well came flooding back: Jay’s colon cancer diagnosis at 41 and the terrifying, gutting nine months that followed,’ she wrote. 

‘My sister Emily’s pancreatic cancer, which would later kill her at 54, just as her political career was really taking off. 

‘My mother-in-law Carol’s ovarian cancer, which she was fighting as she buried her son, a year and nine months before she herself was laid to rest.’

She shared that her second husband, John Molner, whom she wed in 2014, also had a ‘tumor the size of a coconut on his liver, which was surgically removed just a few months before we got married’.

Couric – whose mother battled mantle cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and whose father was diagnosed with prostate cancer – explained that her ‘mood quickly shifted from disbelief to resignation’ as she remembered everyone in her life who had also struggled with the disease. 

‘Given my family’s history of cancer, why would I be spared? My reaction went from ‘Why me?’ to ‘Why not me?” she said. 

The TV host and author was advised by her doctor to undergo a lumpectomy – a surgical procedure in which the cancerous tissue is removed from the breast – as well as a course of radiation and medication. 

Her surgery took place on July 14 and her doctor ‘told her she was pleased with the way things went’ although the tumor was bigger than they had initially thought. 

‘Dr. Newman told me she was pleased with the way things went — she had removed the tumor and the margins were clean,’ Couric shared. 

Couric - who famously underwent a colonoscopy live on the Today show in 2000 - said that she hopes her breast cancer battle will highlight the importance of getting regular mammograms

Couric – who famously underwent a colonoscopy live on the Today show in 2000 – said that she hopes her breast cancer battle will highlight the importance of getting regular mammograms

‘The pathology came back a few weeks later. Thankfully, my lymph nodes were clean. But the tumor was bigger than they expected: 2.5 centimeters, roughly the size of an olive. ‘Kalamata?’ I asked. ‘Castelvetrano? Blue cheese-stuffed?’ Whatever fruit it most resembled (yes, olives are considered a fruit), it didn’t change the staging, which was 1A.’ 

Couric later learned that she had Oncotype breast cancer, noting that this means the likelihood of the disease returning was 19 – a low enough number to allow her to ‘forgo chemotherapy’. 

The former Today show host began radiation treatment on September 7, writing that ‘each session lasted about 10 minutes and involved lying face down on a massage-like table with my left breast hanging in an opening, away from my body, so the beams wouldn’t veer off course into my lungs or heart’. 

Couric's sister Emily (pictured) passed away in October 2001 at 54 from pancreatic cancer

Couric’s sister Emily (pictured) passed away in October 2001 at 54 from pancreatic cancer

She noted that she listened to a special playlist of her favorite songs to get her through each session – Ennio Morricone, Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen, Dolly Parton, Taylor Swift, Oscar Peterson, Lake Street Drive, Amy Winehouse, Brandi Carlile, and The Isley Brothers – joking that she may put her ‘radiation playlist’ on Spotify.

Couric completed her final radiation treatment September 27, and wrote that while her ‘left breast does look like she’s been sunbathing topless’, she has otherwise ‘felt fine’ throughout the process. 

Speaking about her decision to go public with her diagnosis, Couric – who famously underwent a colonoscopy live on the Today show in 2000 – said that she hopes her breast cancer battle will highlight the importance of getting regular mammograms, noting that she was ‘six months late’ with her own screening. 

‘Why am I telling you all this? Well, since I’m the ‘Screen Queen’ of colon cancer, it seemed odd to not use this as another teachable moment that could save someone’s life,’ she wrote. 

‘Please get your annual mammogram. I was six months late this time. 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.’

Couric added that her daughter Ellie is in the process of undergoing genetic testing to assess her cancer risk. 

‘It really is a great tool to help you understand what you need to do vis-à-vis screening and how often you need to do it. she told TODAY.

‘And you should be having a conversation with your health care provider about breast cancer as early as 25 just to start the conversation.’

Couric then emphasized the significance of women speaking up ‘for their own health. ‘ 

Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world and affects more than two MILLION women a year

Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world. Each year in the UK there are more than 55,000 new cases, and the disease claims the lives of 11,500 women. In the US, it strikes 266,000 each year and kills 40,000. But what causes it and how can it be treated?

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer develops from a cancerous cell which develops in the lining of a duct or lobule in one of the breasts.

When the breast cancer has spread into surrounding breast tissue it is called an ‘invasive’ breast cancer. Some people are diagnosed with ‘carcinoma in situ’, where no cancer cells have grown beyond the duct or lobule.

Most cases develop in women over the age of 50 but younger women are sometimes affected. Breast cancer can develop in men though this is rare.

Staging means how big the cancer is and whether it has spread. Stage 1 is the earliest stage and stage 4 means the cancer has spread to another part of the body.

The cancerous cells are graded from low, which means a slow growth, to high, which is fast growing. High grade cancers are more likely to come back after they have first been treated.

What causes breast cancer?

A cancerous tumour starts from one abnormal cell. The exact reason why a cell becomes cancerous is unclear. It is thought that something damages or alters certain genes in the cell. This makes the cell abnormal and multiply ‘out of control’.

Although breast cancer can develop for no apparent reason, there are some risk factors that can increase the chance of developing breast cancer, such as genetics.

What are the symptoms of breast cancer?

The usual first symptom is a painless lump in the breast, although most breast lumps are not cancerous and are fluid filled cysts, which are benign. 

The first place that breast cancer usually spreads to is the lymph nodes in the armpit. If this occurs you will develop a swelling or lump in an armpit.

How is breast cancer diagnosed?

  • Initial assessment: A doctor examines the breasts and armpits. They may do tests such as a mammography, a special x-ray of the breast tissue which can indicate the possibility of tumours.
  • Biopsy: A biopsy is when a small sample of tissue is removed from a part of the body. The sample is then examined under the microscope to look for abnormal cells. The sample can confirm or rule out cancer.

If you are confirmed to have breast cancer, further tests may be needed to assess if it has spread. For example, blood tests, an ultrasound scan of the liver or a chest x-ray.

How is breast cancer treated?

Treatment options which may be considered include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormone treatment. Often a combination of two or more of these treatments are used.

  • Surgery: Breast-conserving surgery or the removal of the affected breast depending on the size of the tumour.
  • Radiotherapy: A treatment which uses high energy beams of radiation focussed on cancerous tissue. This kills cancer cells, or stops cancer cells from multiplying. It is mainly used in addition to surgery.
  • Chemotherapy: A treatment of cancer by using anti-cancer drugs which kill cancer cells, or stop them from multiplying
  • Hormone treatments: Some types of breast cancer are affected by the ‘female’ hormone oestrogen, which can stimulate the cancer cells to divide and multiply. Treatments which reduce the level of these hormones, or prevent them from working, are commonly used in people with breast cancer.

How successful is treatment?

The outlook is best in those who are diagnosed when the cancer is still small, and has not spread. Surgical removal of a tumour in an early stage may then give a good chance of cure.

The routine mammography offered to women between the ages of 50 and 70 mean more breast cancers are being diagnosed and treated at an early stage.

For more information visit breastcancercare.org.uk, breastcancernow.org or www.cancerhelp.org.uk

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