Announcer: Throughout her career, Jane has always promoted the importance of prevention. She drew on her decades of research and experience in medical journalism in 1999 when she herself faced a major health issue.
Interviewer: Tell me about how you discovered your breast cancer first?
Jane: It was just a routine exam -- I had had an area in my left breast that was discomforting. It hurt from time to time, and for quite a number of years, but two years ago, things changed and I said, "This is still bothering me, my mammogram was negative, it was always negative." And the doctor examined me physically and said, "You know, I think this feels different than it did last year." She said, "Let's biopsy that right now, needle biopsy, take those slides right now to the pathologist," and I did that. I followed her instructions and I had a diagnosis in a day.
Interviewer: Well, you had been writing about mammography, about all sorts of health issues, for many years, so how did that prepare you, or did it prepare you, for when you were faced with breast cancer?
Jane: I was not scared because I knew that the vast majority of women who get breast cancer nowadays survive it, that there are terrific treatments out there, that there are terrific diagnostic techniques, analyses that you can do on the tissue that's removed, that can guide you as to the best treatment plan.
Announcer: Dr. Peter Pressman is a surgical oncologist at Weill Medical College of Cornell University and New York Presbyterian Hospital. He knew Jane from her work in publicizing the early successes of mammography, but was not her physician until she came to him with a diagnosis of breast cancer.
Dr. Pressman: Her cancer proved to be an early breast cancer, we call it Stage I, being that it was confined to the breast. It was a very small Stage I, and that did mean that the lymph nodes were clear.
Jane: I had a lumpectomy, with a significant amount of tissue removed, followed by about seven weeks of radiation treatment. I did not need chemotherapy. Everyone agreed that that was not called for in my case.
Dr. Pressman: Most women with breast cancer who have lumps in their breasts are treated with lumpectomies, and lumpectomies means that we use radiation. I always tell women when they have a breast cancer that their whole breast needs to be treated in some way, so it's either a mastectomy or it's a lumpectomy with radiation.
Announcer: To prevent recurrence and to reduce the risk of developing cancer in the opposite breast, Jane is currently taking the drug tamoxifen.
Interviewer: Now, you're somebody who was very healthy, you're somebody who did take a lot of exercise, and yet you got breast cancer.
Jane: There are no guarantees in this business. You can take the best possible care of yourself but there is no guarantee that something bad won't happen to you. The advantage of being in good shape, to being healthy and strong is that you bounce back more quickly from any insult.