Today contributor Jill Martin returned to the morning show on Monday following the successful double mastectomy she underwent to treat stage 2 breast cancer.
Her cancer went undetected until the BRCA genetic test prompted doctors to do more extensive testing. And although Martin is now “cancer-free,” she said she needs to undergo further treatment to keep it that way.
Along with her surgeon, Dr. Elisa Port, told Martin about her experiences during an interview with Today co-host Savannah Guthrie, and in a personal essay published Monday on the Today show’s website. Martin reported on the success of her four-hour operation in July, but also outlined what the next steps in treatment might be: a full hysterectomy to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer, and possible chemotherapy.
“That’s the part that hit me the hardest — the idea of chemotherapy,” Martin wrote in her essay, calling the experience an emotional “roller coaster ride.”
Throughout the TV feature and in her essay, Martin encouraged others to talk to their doctors about the same genetic testing found in their BRCA2 gene mutation, which is known to pose a cancer risk. Her only regret was that she hadn’t been tested earlier, before separate tests revealed she had breast cancer.
“Being proactive is so much better than fighting cancer and I just don’t want another family to have to go through that part of it,” Martin told Guthrie on Monday’s show.
Martin, who hosted the “Steals and Deals” and “Ambush Makeover” segments on Today, first shared her diagnosis in a separate interview and accompanying essay in mid-July. She knew she was at high risk for breast cancer, the most common type of cancer in the United States, since her grandmother died of the same disease.
Martin’s mother also had a double mastectomy in her late 40s before breast cancer became invasive. Martin said she also took steps to manage her risk, was conscious of her health and had regular mammogram tests. However, no cancer cells could be detected in the mammograms. Only after the genetic test uncovered her BRCA2 gene could the doctors recommend more extensive testing. Further check-ups and imaging tests uncovered the cancer.
“Mammograms save lives and are still the number one method for detecting breast cancer.” But no test is perfect, and mammograms are certainly not,” said Dr. Port previously said on Today. “And they catch about 85 to 90% of cancers, but not 100%. And that’s why we are investigating and recommending the screening of high-risk patients and complementing other imaging studies to fill this gap.”
Academy Award-winning actress Angelina Jolie announced in 2013 that she had undergone a double mastectomy at the age of 37 after similar genetic tests revealed she was a carrier of the BRCA1 gene. The operation was for prevention, as her breasts no longer had cancer cells. Jolie’s mother, actress Marcheline Bertrand, died of ovarian cancer at the age of 56.
“I wanted to write this to tell other women that the decision to have a mastectomy wasn’t easy. But I’m very glad I did it,” Jolie wrote after her surgery a New York Times opinion pieceShe added that the procedure reduced her risk of developing cancer “from 87 percent to under 5 percent.”
Martin also felt the tests and surgery saved her life. But the Fashion for Dummies author has also been open about the emotional toll the trial has had on her and her family.
“I grew up with my mom saying, ‘You never know what’s going on inside someone,’ but inside it’s very hard,” Martin told Guthrie on Monday. “I’m grateful there is a treatment plan going forward, but it’s a long road and emotionally … it’s earth shattering.”
Nardine Saad, a Times contributor, contributed to this report.