By KRISTINA JOHNSON
After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer affecting women. While a diagnosis is obviously terrifying, with early detection and the right treatment, breast cancer is very beatable.
The following 10 survivors with ties to New York are a testament to the odds: If it’s caught early, more than 90 percent of women will be healthy at the five-year mark.
Before she challenged Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a hotly contested Democratic primary in September, Cynthia Nixon battled breast cancer. The former Sex and the City star was diagnosed in 2006, undergoing a lumpectomy and radiation to treat it. She was 40 years old at the time, and it wasn’t the first time the disease had touched her life: Nixon’s mother also dealt with and survived breast cancer. In a 2008 Nightline interview, she said that knowing her mother had had the disease made her aware that her chances of also getting it someday were higher. Nixon, who is a mother of three, became an ambassador for the breast cancer foundation Susan G. Komen following her ordeal.
Celebrity chef Sandra Lee — the longtime girlfriend of Cuomo and de facto first lady of New York State — learned she had breast cancer after a routine mammogram in 2015. The disease was caught early, but doctors still advised her to undergo a double mastectomy to help prevent a recurrence. She has been cancer-free since, but was rehospitalized several months after her surgery due to serious complications. Lee is now sharing intimate details of her diagnosis, treatment and recovery in a new HBO documentary called Rx: Early Detection, a Cancer Journey with Sandra Lee. The film was produced by actress Kathy Bates, a fellow breast cancer survivor.
Longtime Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts got her breast cancer diagnosis in 2007, announcing it on air. Roberts initially found a lump at home during a self-exam of her breasts. (Doctors recommend doing breast self-exams monthly.) The Upper West Sider would then undergo surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, as the disease was particularly aggressive. She adopted a healthier, largely organic diet and stricter workout regimen in hopes of staying healthy, but developed a rare blood cancer called myelodysplastic syndrome in 2011. Ironically, it can be a side effect of undergoing cancer treatment. That condition required a bone marrow transplant, but Roberts has been healthy since then.
In 2017, actress Julia Louis Dreyfus put production of her hit HBO comedy Veep on hold after learning she had breast cancer. The Manhattan-born comedian broke the news to her fans on Twitter, expressing optimism about her fight and her support network. She also took the opportunity to advocate for universal healthcare to help women in similar circumstances. The Seinfeld star underwent surgery and finished up chemotherapy earlier this year, and recently returned to work on a new season of Veep.
Activist and icon Gloria Steinem had a bout with breast cancer in the 1980s. She underwent a lumpectomy and followed it up with radiation. Steinem rose to prominence as a leader of the then-fledgling feminist movement in the 1960s. The Upper East Sider got her start as a journalist, jump-starting her career with an explosive exposé of the New York Playboy Club. Despite her cancer battle three decades ago, Steinem is still going strong today at 84 years old.
TODAY Show anchor Hoda Kotb fought breast cancer in 2007 when she was just 42 years old. Her doctor delivered the shocking news to Kotb over the phone while she was in a meeting with an intern. The journalist was very open about her diagnosis and treatment, letting NBC cameras document much of her journey. She underwent a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, dealing with it all in the midst of a nasty divorce from then-husband Burzis Kanga. In 2017, Kotb celebrated two happy milestones: 10 years cancer free and the adoption of a baby girl she named Haley Joy.
“You’re So Vain” songster Carly Simon battled breast cancer in 1998 at age 52. The Bronx-born Simon had planned to keep the news under wraps, but went public with her diagnosis after the National Enquirer got wind of the story because she feared the paper would sensationalize it. She has said she struggled with depression during her treatment, which included a lumpectomy and chemotherapy. Simon, who shares two children with singer-songwriter James Taylor, channeled her pain into her art. Her 2000 album The Bedroom Tapes included the song “Scar,” which highlighted her breast cancer fight.
A TV segment may well have saved Amy Robach’s life. The former Good Morning America anchor and Manhattan resident underwent a mammogram on live TV for the morning show in October 2013 as part of a segment on breast cancer awareness. Weeks later, she took to the air to announce that she had stage-2 breast cancer that had spread to her lymph nodes. The journalist underwent a double mastectomy and eight rounds of chemotherapy in addition to multiple surgeries. She has also detailed her struggles with early menopause, a common side effect of chemotherapy. The mother of two left GMA earlier this year and became co-anchor of ABC’s 20/20 alongside David Muir.
Actress Edie Falco found out she had breast cancer while in the middle of filming HBO drama The Sopranos in 2003. She was 40 years old at the time. The Brooklyn-born Falco kept the news largely secret, continuing to show up to work even as she underwent chemotherapy. Chemo-related hair loss meant her character, Carmela Soprano, suddenly changed to a new, closely cropped hairstyle. A recovering alcoholic and former drug addict, Falco credited her sobriety with giving her the strength to make it through cancer treatment. The actress, who also starred in Oz and Nurse Jackie, has said that her battle with cancer makes her extra-grateful for her life. She adopted a son and a daughter after going into remission.
Richard Roundtree was a superstar in the 1970s, thanks to a starring role in Shaft. The New Rochelle native was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993 after finding a lump in his chest. He underwent a mastectomy to remove his left breast and a lymph node. Roundtree kept the news secret for about five years, until a TV role required him to remove his shirt and expose his scars. He is now an advocate to raise awareness for male breast cancer.
Men make up a tiny fraction of breast cancer cases — about 1 percent, according to the National Cancer Institute. But these cases often go undetected and untreated until the disease has advanced, making it harder to fight.