Understanding Breast Cancer
- TODAY host Hoda Kotb was recently surprised with an office makeover by Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin of the Netflix hit show Get Organized with the Home Edit. Both Kotb and Shearer have battled breast cancer, but Kotb is cancer-free and Shearer is currently recovering from treatment.
- Kotb, 57, was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2007 at age 43 after doctors discovered lumps in her breast tissue during a routine exam. She then underwent a mastectomy and reconstruction followed by five years of taking the drug tamoxifen (Nolvadex).
- It’s been two weeks since Shearer, Netflix star and professional organizer, had a double mastectomy for her stage 2 breast cancer, and she’s recovering well.
- Breast cancer is a common cancer that has been the subject of much research, so there are many treatment optinos out there. Mammograms, a standard screening procedure for breast cancer, and self breast exams can save lives.
- The American Cancer Society (ACS) says women should begin yearly mammogram screening for breast cancer at age 45 if they are at average risk for breast cancer. The ACS also says those aged 40-44 have the option to start screening with a mammogram every year, and women age 55 and older can switch to a mammogram every other year, or they can choose to continue yearly mammograms.
Kotb’s co-host Jenna Bush Hager, 40, recently gave her friend the ultimate spring cleaning gift: an office makeover. But what made the surprise even sweeter was that Clea Shearer, 40, did the transformation amid her recovery from breast cancer – the same disease Kotb battled in 2007.Read More
Shearer, who lives in Tennessee with her husband, John, and their two children, Stella, 11, and Sutton, 7, co-founded The Home Edit with her best friend and business partner Joanna Teplin, 42. Their business became such a success that Netflix opted to make a television show of it. Netflix released the second season of Get Organized with the Home Edit on April 1.
And doing what they do best, Shearer and Teplin happily went to work trying to “pare down” Kotb’s office space.
“Because she’s such a creative, she needs more blank surfaces,” Shearer said.
The result was a new sleek and organized set up for the busy TV personality. And Kotb made sure to express her gratitude for the organizer extraordinaires.
“I can’t tell you how incredibly surprised I am by what y’all did. I love it, y’all,” Hoda said as she took it all in. “I love it, I love it, I love it. Beautiful.
“I’m never going to leave my office.”
She ended the TODAY segment with a kind note for Shearer and Teplin.
“We love you both,” Hoda said of her and Hager.
Hoda Kotb’s Breast Cancer Journey
Kotb, 57, received her breast cancer diagnosis in February 2007 after doctors discovered lumps in her breast tissue during a routine exam. She was 43 at the time and underwent a mastectomy and reconstruction followed by five years taking the drug tamoxifen (Nolvadex).
“Cancer shaped me, but it did not define me. It’s part of me, but not all of me,” Kotb said at an annual Breast Cancer Research Foundation New York Symposium and Awards Luncheon in 2017.
She’s still cancer-free today, but Kotb has since opened up about her fertility struggles following her breast cancer battle.
“I remember that my oncologist called, and we were talking about freezing my eggs,” Kotb told Good Housekeeping. “She basically said that given my age and (my breast cancer treatment), it was pretty close to a dead-end.”
Her reaction was, understandably, filled with sorrow. And at that moment, she doubted she’d ever realize her dream of becoming a mother.
“I was in my room, and I just sobbed. I thought, ‘Well, that’s that, isn’t it?,’” Kotb said. “Like, you almost blame yourself. ‘Why didn’t I do this? Why didn’t I do that?’ So I just pushed it away because the reality seemed impossible to bear.
“How do you survive knowing you can’t have what you desire and what you feel like you actually physically need?”
But fast forward to today, and Kotb is the mother of two girls: Haley, now 5, and Hope, now 3. She adopted Haley in 2017 and Hope two years later. And she thanks her now ex-fiancé, Joel Schiffman, for providing the support she needed to become a mother.
“I don’t think I would’ve adopted if it hadn’t been for Joel,” she said of Schiffman. “Having a stable relationship in that moment was really important. Once that fell into place, it didn’t seem as scary to me.”
Kotb announced that she was no longer romantically involved with Schiffman in January, but the two have continued to co-parent their beloved daughters as friends.
Clea Shearer’s Cancer Journey
About two weeks ago, Clea Shearer announced that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and that she would be undergoing a double mastectomy.
“I found a lump myself (in) the last week of February,” Clea posted to Instagram on April 7. “I had been trying to make an appt with my OB(GYN) for several months, and even when I told them I found a lump, they couldn’t accommodate me. I had to request a mammogram from my general doctor, which led to an ultrasound, and then an emergency triple biopsy.”
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Clea, who’s been sharing regular updates about her health on Instagram, was originally told her cancer was stage 1, but during the nine-hour surgery on Friday, April 8, doctors found cancer in one of her lymph nodes, which elevated the cancer to stage 2. The type of breast cancer Clea was diagnosed with hasn’t been been made public yet, but she said her cancer is “aggressive and fast-moving,” however, “I caught it early.”
She had two tumors, one measuring 2 centimeter in size and the other 3 centimeters (she was originally told each tumor was 1 centimeter). The tumors were sent to a lab in order to determine in Clea will need chemotherapy or radiation, and as stated earlier, it turns out she’ll need both.
According to her Instagram, Clea underwent a second breast cancer surgery last week because “some of my skin tissue is just NOT having it…” She’s currently recovering at home.
Understanding Breast Cancer: Hoda Kotb and Clea Shearer’s Cancer
Breast cancer is a common cancer that has been the subject of much research. Many women develop breast cancer every year, but men can develop this cancer too – though it is more rare, in part, due to the simple fact that they have less breast tissue.
There are many treatment options for people with this disease, but treatment depends greatly on the specifics of each case. Identifying these specifics means looking into whether the cancerous cells have certain receptors. These receptors – the estrogen receptor, the progesterone receptor and the HER2 receptor – can help identify the unique features of the cancer and help personalize treatment.
“These receptors, I like to imagine them like little hands on the outside of the cell, they can grab hold of what we call ligands, and these ligands are essentially the hormones that may be circulating in the bloodstream that can then be pulled into this cancer cell and used as a fertilizer, as growth support for the cells,” Dr. Elizabeth Comen, a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, previously told SurvivorNet.
One example of a type of ligand that can stimulate a cancer cell is the hormone estrogen, hence why an estrogen receptor positive breast cancer will grow when stimulated by estrogen. For these cases, your doctor may offer treatment that specifically targets the estrogen receptor. But for HER2 positive breast cancers, therapies that uniquely target the HER2 receptor may be the most beneficial.
The Importance of Breast Cancer Screening
Screening for breast cancer is typically done via mammogram, which looks for lumps in the breast tissue and signs of cancer. The American Cancer Society (ACS) says women should begin yearly mammogram screening for breast cancer at age 45 if they are at average risk for breast cancer. The ACS also says those aged 40-44 have the option to start screening with a mammogram every year, and women age 55 and older can switch to a mammogram every other year, or they can choose to continue yearly mammograms.
For screening purposes, a woman is considered to be at average risk if she doesn’t have a personal history of breast cancer, a strong family history of breast cancer, a genetic mutation known to increase risk of breast cancer such as a BRCA gene mutation or a medical history including chest radiation therapy before the age of 30.
Beyond genetics, family history and experience with radiation therapy, experiencing menstruation at an early age (before 12) or having dense breasts can also put you into a high-risk category. If you are at a higher risk for developing breast cancer, you should begin screening earlier.
In a previous interview with SurvivorNet, Dr. Connie Lehman, chief of the Breast Imaging Division at Massachusetts General Hospital, said people who hadn’t reached menopause yet should prioritize getting a mammogram every year.
“We know that cancers grow more rapidly in our younger patients, and having that annual mammogram can be lifesaving,” Dr. Lehman said. “After menopause, it may be perfectly acceptable to reduce that frequency to every two years.
“But what I’m most concerned about is the women who haven’t been in for a mammogram for two, three or four years, those women that have never had a mammogram. We all agree regular screening mammography saves lives.”
It’s also important to be on top of self breast exams. If you ever feel a lump in your breast, you should be vigilant and speak with your doctor right away. Voicing your concerns as soon as you have them can lead to earlier cancer detection which, in turn, can lead to better outcomes.
Contributing: Sydney Shaefer