Giuliana Rancic’s Difficult Breast Cancer Decision

In October, we reported that E! News co-host Giuliana Rancic had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

The early stage cancer had been found on a mammogram requested by the physician who was to perform IVF on the couple, who have long been dealing with issues of infertility.

Rancic underwent bilateral lumpectomies shortly after the diagnosis was made. Unfortunately, the path report reveal that they had not removed all the cancer on one side.

This left Rancic with two options:

  • Undergo another lumpectomy, then radiation therapy and anti-estrogen therapy OR
  • Have bilateral mastectomies

This morning on the Today Show, Rancic revealed her decision. She will undergo the bilateral mastectomies.

Giuliana revealed that with the bilateral mastectomies, her chance of getting breast cancer again was about 1%. With lumpectomy, radiation and medication, she could still have a 20-40% of breast cancer over her lifetime. She would also have to have mammograms every 6 months.

In the end, all it came down to was just choosing to live and not looking over my shoulder for the rest of my life.

Two other factors weighed into her decision: If she chose the lumpectomy route, the anti-estrogen therapy would put off the idea of having a child for several years.

Secondly, she had the opportunity to see first-hand what breast reconstruction surgery would look like.  A good friend of hers, who underwent mastectomy and reconstruction as a young woman when she learned she had the breast cancer gene, showed Giuliana her results:

when I saw it and she was wonderful enough to share that with me, I thought, okay, this is okay, she looks beautiful, she’s healthy, she’s vibrant and doesn’t regret her decision and I think that is very important.

Her friend is a member of an organization called Bright Pink, a national non-profit organization that provides education and support to young women who are at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer.

In the second half of the interview, Bill and Giuliana were joined by Dr. Kathy Ann Joseph, Professor of Surgery at NY University Medical Center. She explained how most women now undergo reconstruction at the same time as mastectomy:

It’s so much different. it’s come such a long way. we have much more options. the surgery itself is not as morbid as it was 20 years ago. and the reconstruction itself just looks so much better. it looks so much more natural.

We touched upon the topic of Breast Reconstruction, when Christina Applegate underwent a mastectomy for her breast cancer back in 2009. You can read more about it in our Resounding Health Casebook on the topic by clicking here.

Although not all women will choose to undergo breast reconstruction, studies have shown that those who do frequently report an increase in self-confidence, gained emotional well-being, renewed body image and an increased sense of femininity and sexuality.

Although this is a very personal decision,  women should have as much information as possible available to them to help them decide what is best for them.

Having women like Giuliana Rancic come forward plays an important role in the dissemination of this kind of information. It’s Celebrity Diagnosis’s concept of Teachable Moments at its best.

Hats off to you, Guiliana!

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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