Katie Couric, a former co-anchor of NBC’s “TODAY” show, opened up about her recent breast cancer diagnosis Monday, saying she was "lucky" it was detected early and turning her story into a message for other women to keep up with their mammograms.
Couric, 65, revealed Wednesday that she was diagnosed June 21, underwent surgery July 14 and began radiation Sept. 7.
On the "TODAY" show Monday, Couric said she's feeling well after having finished 15 days of radiation.
“I’m feeling great. I’m just getting over a cold … but I’m feeling just fine. I finished radiation last week. They said it made you tired. I was actually not too tired from it. I had a lumpectomy in July," she said.
“I just feel super lucky that it was diagnosed when it was, that I went even though I was late, that I went when I did,” she added.
Couric revealed she was initially "stunned" by the news but relieved by the early detection at stage 1A.
She said that when she went for her exam in the summer, she had her phone's camera ready, hoping to share the experience with her followers. But then, her radiologist told her to her put the phone away.
"I was like, 'Uh-oh, what does that mean?' and she said, 'I think there's something we really need to biopsy, and I want to do it today.' So I thought: 'Oh, my God! You must be kidding me.'
“I found out the next days. She called me. I was pretty stunned. I think those words — 'It's cancerous' or 'You have cancer' — do stop you in your tracks," she added.
"But she told me it was treatable — we needed to have a plan. So I went from feeling shocked to not that shocked given my family's history to relieved, because my exposure to cancer with Jay and Emily and my mother-in-law ... they were all advanced and the prognosis was really tough, so I felt so grateful, honestly," she said.
Couric's diagnosis came on the eighth anniversary of her wedding to John Molner, and the news reminded her of family members with the disease, including her first husband, Jay Monahan, who died of colon cancer in 1998, when he was 42.
She said she was "nervous" to share the news with her adult daughters, Carrie and Ellie.
“I waited a few days so I could process it and really understand what we’re dealing with. And I FaceTimed each of them,” she said. “I was very reassuring, but I saw in their faces. It’s just hard to deliver that news no matter how you do it.”
Couric also shared a message about how women with dense breasts, like her, may require secondary screenings, as they affect how breast tissue shows up on a mammogram.
In an essay on her Katie Couric Media website, she wrote, “The denser your breasts, the higher your risk of cancer.”
Couric said Monday that 40% to 50% of women have dense breasts. “It’s indicated on a mammogram, so you have to ask your radiologist, or your radiologists ideally should be telling you you have dense breasts, and then you often need secondary screening,” she said.
She said she is working with Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who is introducing legislation this month that would require insurance companies to cover, at no cost to patients, breast ultrasounds for women who have dense breasts.
“Because it’s criminal. All these breast cancer diagnoses would happen much earlier if, in fact, women with dense breasts had breast ultrasounds,” she said.
Couric urges other women to be diligent about getting their mammograms. In the essay on her website, she wrote: “Please get your annual mammogram. I was six months late this time."
"I shudder to think what might have happened if I had put it off longer. But just as importantly, please find out if you need additional screening,” she said.