Erin Andrews's Cancer Battle
- Television personality Erin Andrews, 43, battled and beat cervical cancer. She was initially diagnosed in 2016.
- During her battle, she kept her health struggles private, but when she triumphed over the disease, she opened up to the world in an interview with Sports Illustrated.
- Now, she is an outspoken cancer advocate, using her public profile to boost awareness about cervical cancer screening.
On a Saturday morning in September 2016, Erin Andrews got an alarming call from her doctor. An inconclusive annual exam a few months prior had led Andrews’s gynecologist to send her for additional testing, and now, the results were in. Andrews had been diagnosed with cervical cancer, and there was no time to waste. She needed surgery.Read More
She didn’t want anything about her health to get in the way of her work. She was on the sidelines covering a game the next day, and she scheduled her surgery for a Tuesday to give her the maximum amount time between the operation and her slot hosting Dancing with the Stars on Monday nights. Erin Andrews never missed a game that season, and she kept the news of her diagnosis confined to her family and close friends. “I work in a male-dominated industry, so it’s not something you really want to talk about,” she explained. “I felt like it was something I wanted to keep quiet. I wanted to beat it. I wanted to focus on my job.”
And that’s exactly what she did. Andrews underwent two surgeries, and in November, she got the call from her oncologist that the operations were successful and she was cancer free. One she was through her battle, Andrews was finally ready to open up about it to the public. She shared her story with Sports Illustrated, and the next day, she was getting calls from media organizations and her bosses wanting to talk to her about how she kept working through the disease. She had football players approaching her to thank her for sharing her story on behalf of the women in their lives who had fought the same disease.
As an outspoken cancer advocate, Erin Andrews is focused on pushing more women to get annual exams and talk with their doctors about Pap+HPV testing. “Every two hours, a woman dies of cervical cancer,” she said. “And the message I’m trying to send out to women is you don’t have to die of this. It’s treatable, and it’s curable. But you have to get to the doctor and get screened.”
Understanding Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer is a type of gynecologic cancer that is typically detected through a routine Pap smear; during this test, your doctor will collect a sample of cells from your cervix (using a small brush or spatula). The cells are then examined under a microscope for abnormalities, including cancer and changes that could indicate pre-cancer.
It is known that the human papillomavirus, or HPV, causes more than 70% of cervical cancer cases which affect people like Erin Andrews and others.
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection. In fact, it is so common that nearly all sexually active men and women get the virus at some point in their lives, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 79 million Americans have HPV.
The HPV vaccine can prevent head and neck cancer, as well as cancer of the cervix if it’s given at a young age before some one has become sexually active.
“The vast majority of humans in the U.S., both men and women, will eventually get infected with human papillomavirus,” Dr. Allen Ho, director of the Head and Neck Cancer Program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, previously told SurvivorNet. “The important thing to know about HPV is that there are many different strains, and only a couple of them tend to be more cancer inducing. Probably less than 1 percent of the population who get infected happen to have the cancer-causing virus that, somehow, their immune system fails to clear.”
Cervical cancer such as that which Erin Andrews beat is unique in that it is usually preventable with the HPV vaccine. And that is why those eligible should get vaccinated against HPV, SurvivorNet experts say.
The vaccine is typically given to children before they are sexually active, as HPV is transmitted through sexual contact.
“We recommend strongly that children are vaccinated against HPV to prevent cervical cancer, but also to prevent head and neck cancer,” Dr. Jessica Geiger, a medical oncologist specializing in head and neck cancer at Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center, previously told SurvivorNet.
“Now the key with the vaccine is that you received the vaccine before you ever reach sexual debut or have sexual encounters. So that’s why these vaccines are approved for young children ages 9, 10, 11 years old, up to 26.”
Dr. Jonathan Berek of the Stanford Women’s Cancer Center addresses myths that might keep people from getting the HPV vaccine.
Contrary to some detrimental misinformation circulated online, the HPV vaccine is entirely safe. There are virtually no side effects with this vaccine, Dr. Jonathan Berek, director of the Women’s Cancer Center at Stanford Medical Center, told SurvivorNet. It is “incredibly safe,” he added.
The most common symptoms of cervical cancer can include:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding, such as bleeding after vaginal sex, bleeding after menopause, after douching, bleeding and spotting in between periods or having heavier or longer (menstrual) periods than usual.
- Unusual discharge from the vagina that may contain some blood and may occur between your periods or after menopause.
- Pain during sex.
- Pain in the pelvic region.
Contributing: Sydney Schaefer