Third GMA Anchor Diagnosed with Breast Cancer

Former Good Morning America host Joan Lunden has been diagnosed with breast cancer. The sixty-three year old Lunden, who hosted GMA from 1980-1997, made the announcement this morning on GMA, talking to current host Robin Roberts,  a breast cancer survivor.

Lunden also placed a statement on her website, Joan Lunden’s Healthy Living:

“Two weeks ago I went for my annual mammogram as I do every year religiously, and thankfully it was all clear. That is always the moment where I feel I can breathe again. However for women who have dense fibrous breast tissue, as I do, often our doctors will recommend an ultrasound as well. My ultrasound that day revealed a tumor in my right breast. After a core biopsy was performed, I heard those words that every woman fears and that I never thought I’d hear: ‘you have breast cancer’.”

Lunden’s treatment will consist of a lumpectomy, radiation therapy and chemotherapy, which she has already begun.

amyrobach1Coincidentally, current GMA news anchor Amy Robach had also been diagnosed with breast cancer in November, after she underwent a screening mammography live on GMA. She underwent a bilateral mastectomy, followed by 8 rounds of chemotherapy. Robach remained on the air throughout the process, only taking a week off to undergo reconstructive surgery.

“The funny thing is I actually have thanked ABC News several times for letting me come back so quickly. I wanted to have something in my life to focus on other than doctors and needles and medicines and just looking at numbers and statistics and waiting for tests. It was such an amazing distraction. And interestingly enough, being afraid of what I might say or what I might forget to say on the air was just another part of the overall fear of cancer — it invades your body, it invades your mind.

Yesterday, she did  an in-depth interview the New York Daily News , revealing some of the side effects she has experienced due to the chemotherapy- most notably difficulties with her memory.

“The chemo brain, the chemo fog, is a real thing. I would have conversations with people, they would take pictures with me after the show and they would send them to me and say thank you and it took my breath away — it upset me tremendously because I actually wouldn’t be able to remember taking that picture or having a conversation, and for me that was one of the hardest side effects of chemo. I was so afraid I was gonna drop the ball or just do or say something stupid because I wasn’t in my sharpest mode.

What is Chemo Brain?

According to the National Cancer Institute one in four people with cancer reports memory and attention problems after chemotherapy. This is sometimes called “chemobrain.” Many survivors describe this as “brain fog,” which can lead to
  • chemo_brain_mugproblems paying attention
  • trouble finding the right word
  • difficulty remembering new things
  • trouble multitasking
  • memory lapses
  • taking longer to do things due to disorganized, slower thinking and processing

These effects can begin soon after treatment ends, or they may not appear until much later. They don’t always go away. If a person is older, it can be hard to tell whether these changes in memory and concentration are a result of treatment or of the aging process. Either way, some feel they just can’t focus as they once did.

Research is starting to explore why some people develop problems with memory and concentration while others don’t. It seems that people who have had chemotherapy or have had radiation to the head area are at higher risk for these problems. People who had high doses of chemotherapy may have memory problems, but even those who had standard doses have reported memory changes.

It may not only be the treatment for cancer that is at fault. Dr. Tim Ahles, who studies chemobrain at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center explains that some patients tested before starting any treatment may have cognitive problems. This suggests that “aspects of cancer biology may influence cognitive functioning, or that there are as-yet-unidentified shared risk factors for mild cognitive changes and the development of cancer.”

Other factors such as fatigue, low blood counts, infection, nutritional deficiencies and depression can also play a role in the cognitive dysfunction experienced by cancer patients.

What can patients do to cope with chemobrain?

At this time there are no specific medications to treat chemobrain or to prevent it, although a number of clinical trials are underway.

Here are some links to useful sites:




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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