Pre-Cancer Surgery Options
- Beloved chef and television personality Sandra Lee, 55, has revealed that she’s having a hysterectomy, about six years after being diagnosed with breast cancer and undergoing a mastectomy procedure.
- Lee wrote on Instagram today that during a routine appointment with her gynecologist, the doctor noticed “a change in some of my cells.” Lee said she went for a second and third opinion; those doctors all confirmed the same.
- It isn’t exactly clear what Lee meant by “a change in some cells”; it could be that she had precancerous cells (also known as dysplasia) in her reproductive system, such as the cervix. Pre-cancer is when cells in the transformation zone don’t suddenly change into cancer.
- For women with precancerous cells in their cervix, there are a few different options, such as either a LEEP procedure or conization. However, sometimes, a hysterectomy is recommended.
She shared the news on Instagram, writing: “So while you’re reading this post I am undergoing hysterectomy surgery. A surgery that so many brave women before me have had to do. It’ll be an everything out procedure and after that, there won’t be any more halo of worry hanging over my head.”Read More
View this post on Instagram
“I am filled with all sorts of emotions,” she wrote. “I am scared but also happy to be getting this done — strength and courage! We must always remember to have strength and courage. Hopefully this will encourage anyone who needs to get a concerning procedure done to take the opportunity now so you can live as happy and healthy as possible.”
“We must all live our best lives every day and in every way. With that I send you all the love in the world, your well wishes and prayers are appreciated more than you know.”
So, why exactly is Sandra Lee having a hysterectomy? She shared that bit of information in her Instagram post, as well.
She wrote that during a routine appointment with her gynecologist, the doctor noticed “a change in some of my cells.” Lee said she went for a second and third opinion; those doctors all confirmed the same.
It isn’t exactly clear what Lee meant by “a change in some cells”; it could be that she had precancerous cells (also known as dysplasia) in her reproductive system, such as the cervix. Pre-cancer is when cells in the transformation zone don’t suddenly change into cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Instead, the normal cells of the cervix first gradually develop abnormal changes that are called pre-cancerous.
It should be noted that Lee tested negative for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations. These genes help cells repair their DNA damage. Having a change, or mutation, in one of these genes increases a woman’s risk of developing breast and gynecological cancers.
These gene mutations are commonly passed down in families; if a parent carries a BRCA gene mutation, there is a 50-50 chance you could be carrying it as well. So, SurvivorNet experts recommend genetic testing immediately upon finding out if someone in your family has one of these gene mutations.
Sandra Lee’s Cancer Battle
Sandra Lee was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer in 2015.
She would later reveal that she had just finished a photoshoot for People after making the annual “Most Beautiful People List” when her doctor called to say she had ductal carcinoma in situ, which means the cancer hasn’t spread outside the milk duct of the breast
According to the American Cancer Society, about 1 in 5 new breast cancers are DCIS. Nearly all women with this early stage of breast cancer can be cured.
Lee was able to catch the disease while there were still several treatment options. Once she had assessed the possible risks and chances of the disease returning, she opted to have both a lumpectomy — surgery to remove cancer or other abnormal tissue from the breast — and a double mastectomy. Additionally, because her cancer was in its early stage and she had surgery, she didn’t have to have chemotherapy or radiation treatments afterward.
Choosing what kind of surgery to have is a very personal choice.
“As a breast surgeon, my job is (to help patients) understand that their long-term survival with mastectomy is equivalent to that with lumpectomy and radiation,” Dr. Sarah Cate, a breast surgeon at Mount Sinai Health System, previously told SurvivorNet.
Lee didn’t share the news until after the lumpectomy was complete and she was deemed cancer-free. She then announced that she had breast cancer and was going to have a double mastectomy procedure.
Sandra Lee unfortunately had complications with her surgery that led to an infection. But in 2020, she finished her breast reconstruction.
Pre-Cancer Surgery Options
Sandra Lee admitted that watching other women come forward and tell their cancer stories inspired her to tell her own. It also inspired her to get a hysterectomy procedure; she said she watched many “brave women, like my friend’s mother who sadly had lost her battle with breast cancer after it had spread to her ovaries.”
Understandably, Lee didn’t want to meet the same fate.
For women with precancerous cells in their cervix, there are a few different options. However, sometimes, a hysterectomy is recommended.
According to NYU Langone’s Perlmutter Cancer Center, either a LEEP procedure or conization will be recommended.
A LEEP procedure, or a loop electrosurgical excision procedure, manages precancerous growths on the surface or in the canal of the cervix, which connects the vagina and uterus. In this procedure, a thin wire loop is inserted into the vagina. The loop carries a small electrical current that removes the precancerous tissue.
A conization procedure is when doctors remove a cone-shaped piece of tissue from the cervix. During this procedure, doctors use either a scalpel inserted through the vagina or a laser to remove a piece of cervical tissue.
Doctors may use conization to remove precancerous tissue high up in the cervical canal, along with a border of surrounding healthy tissue, to help ensure that all of the precancerous cells have been taken out.
Some women who are treated with either a LEEP or conization procedure for precancerous cells require additional treatment. In some cases, a hysterectomy may be recommended, like in Lee’s case.
Contributing: Chris Spargo