When Celebrities Get Cancer

When Celebrities Get Cancer

Don S. Dizon, MD, FACP

@drdonsdizon
Oct 22, 2011
I was recently interviewed about breast cancer in young women, spurred by the recent disclosure that Giuliana Rancic, of E! Entertainment News, was diagnosed with breast cancer. It struck me as an interesting way to change the dialogue on breast cancer--not to emphasize the importance of diagnosis and treatment (both of which remain important as we seek a cure, of course) but to enhance a national dialogue on cancer survivorship. In this case, it means to confront and dispel myths associated with the diagnosis of breast cancer.

A diagnosis of breast cancer still feels like a death sentence. This is true for newly diagnosed women and apparently, in the national mindset. So, in the face of a "death sentence," how can Ms. Rancic talk about pursuing parenthood? Is it realistic? Doesn't having breast cancer mean your ovaries should (or will) stop working? Can't pregnancy make the breast cancer grow more aggressively and kill you sooner?

It is important that oncologists be aware that these concerns and in some ways, "myths" about breast cancer be addressed whenever we can. Today we recognize breast cancer is not one disease but multiple. This implies that the prognosis is no longer singular and broad generalizations cannot apply. It means attention to guidance from ASCO on fertility preservation be considered, especially for women in Ms. Rancic's situation, and that we recognize that parenthood and pregnancy are possible. 

I hope the best for Ms. Rancic and her family as she moves forward. More importantly, I think every time someone famous "comes out" with their diagnosis, we take the opportunity not only to raise awareness, but provide a message of hope. 


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