Rita Wilson has double mastectomy & reconstructive surgery for breast cancer

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Rita Wilson, 58, has a new article in People Magazine detailing her personal health crisis following a breast cancer diagnosis. Her story is a little complicated and I hope I can explain it well. For years, Rita has had abnormal breast tissue that is not in itself cancerous, but indicates an increased chance of developing cancer later on. It’s called lobular carcinoma in situ and is when abnormal cells are found in the milk ducts/lobules of the breasts. Due to this pre-existing condition, Rita gets regular mammograms. In a breast biopsy, they found other types of abnormal cells in her ducts (they’re called pleomorphic lobular carcinoma in situ) which are also not cancerous, but often co-exist with cancerous cells. (Here’s a study with more on that.)

One doctor told Rita that the additional abnormal cells did not indicate that she had cancer, but a friend encouraged her to get a second opinion. A second and then a third doctor confirmed the existence of actual cancerous cells in her ducts (called invasive lobular carcinoma) and so she opted for a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. She had the procedure last week and is sharing her story now. Here’s what she told People:

“I have taken a leave from the play Fish in the Dark to deal with a personal health issue. Last week, with my husband by my side, and with the love and support of family and friends, I underwent a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction for breast cancer after a diagnosis of invasive lobular carcinoma. I am recovering and most importantly, expected to make a full recovery. Why? Because I caught this early, have excellent doctors and because I got a second opinion.

“I have had an underlying condition of LCIS, (lobular carcinoma in situ) which has been vigilantly monitored through yearly mammograms and breast MRIs. Recently, after two surgical breast biopsies, PLCIS (pleomorphic carcinoma in situ) was discovered. I mention this because there is much unknown about PLCIS and it is often found alongside DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ). I was relieved when the pathology showed no cancer.

“However, a friend who had had breast cancer suggested I get a second opinion on my pathology and my gut told me that was the thing to do. A different pathologist found invasive lobular carcinoma. His diagnosis of cancer was confirmed by, yet, another pathologist. I share this to educate others that a second opinion is critical to your health. You have nothing to lose if both opinions match up for the good, and everything to gain if something that was missed is found, which does happen. Early diagnosis is key.

“I feel blessed to have a loving, supportive husband, family, friends and doctors and that I am the beneficiary of advances in the field of breast cancer and reconstruction. I am getting better every day and look forward to renewed health.

“I hope this will encourage others to get a second opinion and to trust their instincts if something doesn’t ‘feel’ right.”

[From People]

A friend of mine had an abnormal mammogram and was told that her biopsy was not cancerous so I will tell her about this story in case it’s useful at all. I feel like a tool for bringing it up, but I will talk to her about it. It’s hard to talk to friends and family about these very serious health issues. When people like Rita Wilson and Angelina Jolie reveal their personal health issues it helps open up conversations that may save lives.

Unfortunately not everyone can afford to get a second opinion as Rita did and she acknowledges this in her statement. NPR had a sobering report this morning about how some cancer patients are opting out of treatments because they’re too expensive. It’s a similar story for early detection and preventative treatment.

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39 Responses to “Rita Wilson has double mastectomy & reconstructive surgery for breast cancer”

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  1. Virgilia Coriolanus says:

    Oh wow. I think people underestimate how difficult a decision it was for Rita and Angelina to go for the double mastectomy. I mean, I LOVE my boobs. They aren’t perfect, they have stretch marks from when I actually grew them when I was 12 (and they keep growing, so new marks! Yay!), but I love them. I think I would cry if I had to take it all out in exchange for some silicone bags (or whatever is in implants nowadays).

    • GingerCrunch says:

      You’d cry, but then you’d move on and be relieved. It’s pretty amazing how you adapt and actually find reasons to be thankful for and even happy about your reconstructed breasts.

    • Kara says:

      all true but your boobs will look horrible when you are in a casket for some time.

      • Isabelle says:

        Think OP is saying it is a traumatic choice & not one an easily made one. She isn’t saying you should keep them. It’s your boobs & you are losing part of your body, it’s emotionally & physically hard choice. Fake boobs no matter how good they may look can’t take place of your real ones, when you have to do it for your health & your basically forced into the choice.

    • Jayna says:

      My friend did this. She had beautiful natural boobs. She was diagnosed with cancer and stunned and had to have a double mastectomy. She is in her late 30s. She really researched the new reconstruction and was relieved to see how far they have come. Cut to a year later and all surgeries done and complications dealt with and has had time to settle. She said they will never be like her real boobs, which she loved, but she has to be happy that reconstruction is still miles ahead of what it used to be. She has an amazing husband who adores her and still finds her sexy, and all he cares about that she is healthy and cancer free.

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

      I agree with everyone that when you get that diagnosis, your priorities shift. I love my breasts, too. They were my best feature and the only body part that I was completely happy with. But when I found out I had breast cancer, all I wanted was to live. Your breasts are just tissue. I was very lucky that I just had to have a partial mastectomy. My left breast is slightly larger than my right one now. But I’m alive, and I’m happy to have escaped worse. I’m not minimizing the trauma of losing both breasts – just saying that when actually faced with it, something rises up inside of you to say that nothing is important right now but my life, and you come to terms with it.

    • Babalon says:

      I’ll be taking saline ‘bags’ and getting to live as a result myself this year, because priorities.

    • HurryUp says:

      I think you’d get a grip if losing your natural breasts saved your life. Also, “silicone bags or whatever” is a bit rude.

    • noway says:

      It’s not just the lost of your breasts, but it is a complicated decision for anyone to go for a double mastectomy instead of other options. While I applaud both Rita Wilson and Angelina Jolie for speaking about their decisions based on their personal health issues, sometimes it is better for others to go for less invasive options. My only fear with these are that some people now think this is the best option for them. I hope people truly read or listen to what Rita and Angelina said know your options knowledge is power and choose according to your personal situation. Good luck to her.

      • MrsBPitt says:

        @noway…While I certainly appreciate celeb’s sharing their stories, that allow for discussions that could save a life, I would hope that, anyone in the position of having breast cancer (or any disease) would listen to their Doctor’s advice and not just say “well, Angelina had her breasts removed, so take mine”.

    • MtnRunner says:

      I love my boobs (as does my huz), but I wouldn’t hesitate to lose them if my life was at stake.

    • Betsy says:

      I don’t even particularly love my breasts, but I think having part of your body removed is pretty traumatic on some level for every one who goes through it.

    • Fue McCormick says:

      My friend had a mastectomy and the doctor used fat from her stomach to rebuild the breast. She’s super-slim and a D cup and her new breast is gorgeous … plus, as she gains and loses weight, the new breast does too.

  2. GingerCrunch says:

    Good for you CB, for bringing this up to your friend. It’s tricky, but I believe it’s important to speak up when something might be being overlooked, then they can do what they want with that info. That’s the best you can do.

  3. Sarah says:

    Second opinions are almost always covered. Sadly, too few people take advantage of it and actually do it. Good for Rita for speaking out and prayers for a speedy recovery.

    • Sofia says:

      But there’s no point getting a second opinion if you can’t afford treatment? The post says people are opting out of treatment because they can’t afford it. In one of the richest countries in the world. Shameful.

  4. aims says:

    This really hits home for me. My mother has gone through the same struggles. She also had a double mastectomy and had some lymph notes removed. It’s one of the most horrifying situation I have ever seen someone I love go through. My mom has gone through the ringer with breast cancer since 1994. Currently, she’s now at stage four, terminal cancer. The lifespan that is no more then five years, she’s at seven years. Those have been a hard fought after seven years. It’s been a nightmare for her and our family.

    I wish Rita a safe and healthy recovery. I also wish her a solid support system.

    • Esmom says:

      Aims, wow, that sounds incredibly tough, I’m so sorry.

    • Maxybabe says:

      So sorry to hear of your Mother’s battle @aims. I am sending a prayer for her and to you. Your family sound very strong, this must be a terrible thing for all of you xxx Rita did exactly the right thing in pushing for a second opinion. She has made the right choice for her and her diagnosis, she is very positive sounding and hopefully she will have good emotional support around her. Listening to your gut instinct is vital, I was turned away twice by my doctor at first, then at the actual breast clinic they debated whether they would even proceed with a biopsy after a mammogram showed up a suspicious lump, but they “were not sure” I refused to leave and insisted these procedures were carried out that same day. Sure enough I had breast cancer, which I had suspected all along from the time I felt the lump during my monthly self exam. Please please do not take ‘no’ for an answer if you feel strongly about something. We all want to get out of the doc’s office with reassurance that nothing is wrong, but sometimes we need to listen to our instinctive needs.

      • aims says:

        Max, yes!

        If you know something is wrong or doesn’t feel right, demand to be heard. You have got to be your own advocate. Your life is worth more then a few awkward moments with your doctor.

  5. Murphy says:

    I’m sure it was fun having to deal with Chet during all this. Way to go bro.

    • The Other Pinky says:

      What’s Chet been up to recently? Haven’t heard about him in like two years.

    • Tiffany :) says:

      Shame on Blind Gossip who was saying that her dropping out of the play was to deal with Chet and that she was lying when she said it was due to medical reasons.

      • Lucy2 says:

        That’s awful they said that. I was surprised that she spoke publicly about this so soon but that may explain why.
        I wish her the best in her recovery, and I’m really glad she’s using her profile to talk about second opinions and being an advocate for yourself and your own health.

  6. NYC_girl says:

    I was diagnosed last July and had a bilateral mastectomy in Sept. I didn’t do reconstruction. My invasive area was only found in my final pathology. Thankfully I caught it early and it didn’t hit my lymph nodes. I also had a hysterectomy 4 months ago. I tell every woman I talk to to speak with their GYN about further diagnostic options if they have dense breasts. I was a 36A and felt nothing, and the mammo and ultrasound only caught DCIS in one breast. My surgeon ordered an MRI and that’s how the sh*t was found in my other breast. I was Stage 1 but am OK now.

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

      Very good advice on the dense breasts. I have very dense tissue in my breasts as well as constant cysts. My cancer was hidden behind a cyst and could not be seen on the mammogram. Luckily my doctor insisted on a sonogram, and the cancer was discovered early.

      • Birdix says:

        GNAT–Me too on the cysts (hundreds in each breast). A good reminder for the annual check. The breast specialist keeps dangling it out there that the cysts might ease up after menopause–have you heard that as well?
        Glad you caught it early, NYC_girl.

      • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

        I have heard that, and I am just through menopause, and I don’t have any cysts anymore so far. So there’s hope!

    • aims says:

      I’m so happy to hear you took care of it. It’s scary as Hell to go through that.

    • Tiffany :) says:

      For those with dense tissue!

      A “3D mammogram” is highly recommended (tomosynthesis).

      • NYC_girl says:

        I had the 3D mammo and it still didnt catch the invasive cancer in my right breast. I believe at some point soon MRI will be the best screening option.

  7. S says:

    Fwiw, pleomorphic LCIS behaves like DCIS, which is considered noninvasive cancer, not precancerous. It would have needed surgical treatment essentially the same as invasive cancer (minus lymph node biopsy usually) but does not require medical treatment like chemo. That said, second opinions are always a good idea. My hospital automatically has all breast specimens reviewed by two pathologists

  8. Pandy says:

    OK, this has nothing to do with her cancer (and God bless her) – but that last picture – look how tight her face is compared to her neck. Yikes!!!!

  9. lucy says:

    Wishing Rita well! Thanks for the post.
    Do you know she made an album of classic pop songs recently? (And it’s good.)

  10. celtlady says:

    Wishing Rita well, and I am happy for her that she has lots of love and support.
    I am a survivor, lost one breast at age 29 (radical) and the other (partial) at 48. I am in my 25th year of fighting breast cancer. When I was diagnosed the first time, I asked the surgeon to remove the other breast so that I would never have to go through that a second time, but way back then it was unheard of to remove a ‘healthy’ breast. Thank God the options have come a long way since then. I have had saline implants (they broke), went a while with no reconstruction, then had TRAM flap surgery. My breasts are scarred, but I am proud of my scars. When it is a choice between your life and your boobs, life wins.

  11. lucy says:

    Sending healing wishes to all affected by breast disease. Appreciating the thoughtful commentary here today. While celebrity stories provide conversation starters, it is the community that adds value to the discussion.

  12. Kath says:

    After losing my sister-in-law to breast cancer and my mother having it 5 years ago, I would not hesitate to remove my breasts in a split second. In fact, when you think of the insane amount of women who have to go through BC, I’m surprised more of us don’t remove them as a preventative measure.