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Breast cancer is too close for comfort for Lisa Ling -- four of her friends were diagnosed with it this year alone. The host of “Our America” on the OWN network, Ling has taken on a new role as spokeswoman for P&G Give Hope, a partnership of the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF) and Proctor & Gamble. Her mission is to get women to create an early detection plan and give themselves regular breast self-examinations. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, but when it’s detected early (and it hasn’t spread), the 5-year survival rate is 98 percent, according the NBCF. Now that’s worth a feel!
iVillage: Four of your girlfriends were diagnosed with breast cancer this year. What can you do as a friend to someone fighting breast cancer?
Lisa Ling: Honestly, I just try to be as supportive as possible and I happen to be married to a really gifted radiation oncologist. My girlfriends actually reached out to him first because they were so scared. Fortunately, all four of them caught it early. [Their diagnoses] made me want to encourage as many women as I can to take a proactive approach to their health, and to really take breast cancer self-examinations seriously because only one of these women found a lump that way.
iVillage: How were the others detected?
LL: One of them was about to go through IVF and her doctor said, “Let’s test you [for cancer] just in case.” Thank God he did. IVF starts with an injection of hormones that would have made her breast cancer so much worse. And this woman had no history of breast cancer. That’s a good doctor.
iVillage: As an oncologist, what’s your husband’s view of breast cancer research?
LL: He’s such an advocate for early detection. He really thinks that so many women are being diagnosed with breast cancer because our environment is filled with so many contaminants. [Click here for tips to detoxify your home]
In terms of research, there is a lot of awareness about [breast cancer]; there is a lot of ongoing research. But until there is a cure, it’s incumbent upon women to take control of their own health. [As women] we’re so concerned about diet and what we look like, but it’s all irrelevant if we don’t have our health.
iVillage: Have you had a mammogram?
LL: I have not had a mammogram yet, but I will as soon as I am 40. Not I only do I give myself breast examinations, but I make my husband give me breast examinations, too, because he does it a little differently. I’m pretty comprehensive. It’s also good to have your doctor regularly check when you go in [for a checkup]. If you are 35 and you’ve had a history of breast cancer [in your family] you should start having mammograms now.