Miranda McKeon Opens Up About Her Breast Cancer Battle
- Anne with an E star Miranda McKeon, 20, was diagnosed with breast cancer on June 14, 2021. She then underwent eight rounds of chemotherapy, a preventative double mastectomy, surgery to remove all of her lymph nodes and a piece of skin on her left breast and proton therapy for treatment.
- McKeon had breast reconstruction surgery three months after finishing chemotherapy and has been deemed cancer free since February.
- A cancer diagnosis will change your life. But as we’ve seen in the case of McKeon, you can thrive on the other side of treatment.
“Navigating survivorship has been more complicated than I anticipated in some ways — just being on different types of medications and also how to kind of integrate this experience into my life and work with it rather than working against it,” McKeon told PEOPLE in an interview in October.Read More
“I was really frightened at first about what I might look like after and what that would mean for my relationship to my body and my self confidence and self esteem,” McKeon says of her double mastectomy. “I think this is something that a lot of women face when leading up to this surgery. Am I going to look like myself? Am I going to look normal? Am I going to look like Frankenstein?”
Breast Reconstruction Options
If you’ve had a mastectomy, breast reconstruction is one of the major issues to consider. There are several options available. The reconstruction process can happen at the time of the surgery to remove the breast, or later on in the case of implants. Some women opt for no reconstruction initially, but decide later on that they want reconstruction to restore a sense of self, or simply get back to they way they used to look, says Dr. Andrea Pusic, the chief of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Brigham Health, in a previous SurvivorNet interview.
“It’s an intensely personal choice, and the surgery options do give a very real and natural look of breasts,” she said. “The first option of using your own tissue is performed at the same time as the mastectomy. This involves taking tissue from your lower abdomen and implanting it into the chest. New connections for blood flow are devised and the end result is quite natural. The lower abdomen will have a scar from hip to hip, it’s much like a tummy tuck only the fat removed has now been formed into a mound to create the new breast. This is a long (eight hour) surgery, and the hospital stay is three to five days. You will leave the hospital with drains and will need at-home care until the drains are removed. If you are having radiation, this surgery is probably not available as the skin has to be in good condition. It would be done after you have healed.”
“The second option is breast implants. This too can be done at the time of the breast surgery or completed later on. It involves implanting an expander that will be filled over several months with fluid, which will expand the chest tissue. Once the correct size is attained, a final implant of either saline or silicone is implanted,” said Dr. Pusic.
With Breast Cancer Awareness Month underway, McKeon is hoping to raise awareness for other breast cancer survivors. She joined Metavivor, which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing awareness of advanced breast cancer, for its #LightUpMBC event this month.
“I really want women to know that they should feel amazing about the decisions that they’re making for their bodies,” she explained to PEOPLE. “While going through the breast cancer experience can feel very powerless and helpless and overwhelming, there is empowerment to be found in the choices we get to make around our bodies and these choices should never be compromised.”
“Having a double mastectomy does not mean the end of self confidence, self esteem, looking and feeling like yourself, and you can feel just as beautiful after,” McKeons says.
Radiation for Breast Cancer
Radiation is the use of high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells. This treatment is also used after surgery to lower the chance of the cancer coming back after treatment.
Many women undergo radiation as part of their treatment, like McKeon, especially if they opt for a lumpectomy (surgery to remove cancerous breast tissue along with a rim of normal tissue) instead of a mastectomy (surgery that removes the entire breast).
There are three main areas of debate surrounding radiation for breast cancer — all with the focus of reducing side effects while maximizing outcomes, Dr. Chirag Shah, director of breast radiation oncology at the Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center, previously told SurvivorNet. There’s the question of whether to radiate the whole breast versus partial breast radiation; there’s debate about whether some patients even need radiation at all; and there’s debate about which radiation techniques offer the best outcomes with the least side effects.
“We often believe that more treatment is better treatment,” he says. “But I would say that, when it comes to radiation therapy to the breast, what we’re learning is that shorter courses of radiation, like short course whole breast, may be associated with equal clinical outcomes and even the potential for reduced side effects.”
With assistance from Sydney Schaefer and Dr. Andrea Pusic