It’s become one of the tired routines in television news — the reporter or anchor goes through a medical test to show everyone how easy it is. But for Amy Robach of ABC’s “Good Morning America,” journalism cliche became diagnosis: breast cancer.

Robach, 40, underwent her first mammogram in October as part of the program’s “GMA Goes Pink” programming tie-in with Breast Cancer Awareness Month (the reason you were seeing, among other things, all that pink on National Football League players). When Robach returned to the doctor’s office for a follow-up, she learned that what she thought was a bit of public service journalism might well save her life.

Robach discussed the diagnosis both on air and on ABC News’ website:

I thought I was going back in for a few follow-up images, only to find out in a matter of hours that I had breast cancer.

I was alone that afternoon, never thinking to bring anyone with me, never thinking that day would be life-altering. My husband was on a business trip and my parents live across the country, but that night everyone flew into New York City and we started gearing up for a fight.

On Thursday, Nov. 14, I will go into surgery where my doctors will perform a bilateral mastectomy followed by reconstructive surgery. Only then will I know more about what that fight will fully entail, but I am mentally and physically as prepared as anyone can be in this situation.

And while everyone who gets cancer is clearly unlucky, I got lucky by catching it early, and there are so many people to thank for making sure I did. Every producer, every person who urged me to do this, changed my trajectory.

The doctors told me bluntly: “That mammogram just saved your life.”

I was also told this, for every person who has cancer, at least 15 lives are saved because people around them become vigilant. They go to their doctors, they get checked.

I can only hope my story will do the same and inspire every woman who hears it to get a mammogram, to take a self exam. No excuses. It is the difference between life and death.

In a bit of poignant interconnections, GMA anchor Robin Roberts — who survived breast cancer five years ago and recently has been battling myelodysplastic syndrome, a blood and bone-marrow disease — was part of the program in which Robach underwent the mammogram.

Yes, it was staged television. But it also was a lesson in early detection. Robach points out that she had been putting off getting her first mammogram for a year or so. Although it’s good news for her that the test discovered a life-threatening disease she didn’t know she had, you can’t help but wonder whether the cancer might have been discovered even earlier in its progression had Robach not put off the test.

It’s also worth considering that Robach, and Roberts, have access to quality health care and screenings. But millions of American women do not, particularly after the federal cuts under the budget sequestration. So on the one hand we can celebrate one woman’s early diagnosis, but we also need to note the uncounted others who might be facing early deaths because of policies that deny them equal access to life-saving diagnoses and treatments.

—Posted by Scott Martelle.

—Posted by Scott Martelle


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