What GMA's Amy Robach Wants You to Know About 'Dangerous' New Mammogram Guidelines (VIDEO)

amy robach At the age of 40, after undergoing a mammogram on-air for a segment at the request of her producer, Good Morning America news anchor Amy Robach was diagnosed with breast cancer. Had she not had the screening, she says she would have waited -- perhaps too long. "I was one of those women who thought if one person tells me I can wait until I'm 50, I'm going to," Robach, author of the New York Times bestseller Better: How I Let Go of Control, Held On to Hope, and Found Joy in My Darkest Hour, tells The Stir.

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"Why would I go and get an uncomfortable test that some people are telling me I don't have to have for another 10 years?" she continues. "That's all I needed to hear to say, 'I'll punt.'"

In light of the controversial new recommendation from the American Cancer Society that women of average risk should have mammograms later (starting at age 45) and less frequently (only every other year after turning 54), Robach's experience is particularly compelling.

More from The Stir: Not Everyone Believes That Mammograms Save Lives

"I had [breast cancer] in my 30s," Robach notes. "I had two malignant tumors that had already spread to my nodes by the time I was 40."

Robach also had no family history. But it bears noting that the majority of women diagnosed with the disease fall into this category.

"Eighty percent of breast cancer patients have no family history," Robach notes. "The vast majority of survivors, thrivers, and patients had no family history and no reason whatsoever to think, 'Oh, wow, I might have breast cancer.' ... I was perfectly healthy. I'm a runner, I take care of myself, I eat relatively well. I still had stage 2 invasive breast cancer with no family history."

No wonder the new recommendation truly hit home and incensed the journalist.

"I was angry, because those recommendations have real-life, tragic outcomes," she says. "Those headlines are dangerous; they will kill women, and, death aside, which is obviously significant, let's also talk about the quality of life. Say I survived until I was 45, and then I got my first [mammogram]. The tumor would be much larger, the cancer would've spread much further, and my treatment would have been that much more grueling. So the treatment is less invasive. The chance of surviving is much greater."

Robach experienced firsthand the fact that early detection saves lives. "What the ACS is recommending is that some people have false positives and extra anxiety and have to do extra unnecessary tests -- that outweighs the fact that lives will be lost," she says. "That's mind-blowing to me ... [especially] when you're one of the women who would have been in serious trouble had she followed those guidelines."

More from The Stir: I Survived Breast Cancer Because I Disagreed With My Doctor

In response to this news -- and in her new book -- Robach's "shouting from the rooftops" to encourage women to do what they feel is best for their well-being.

"I just want women to know they have to take their health seriously, they have to be their own advocates, and you have to do what you feel is right and fight for it," she says. "If you want that mammogram, if you want that breast exam, and you want to do those self-exams, by all means, you do it. ... Don't let someone on a committee or who doesn't treat breast cancer patients tell you what they think you should do based on punching numbers into a computer screen. ... As we've just seen today, they'll put roadblocks, and they may make it more difficult, but at the end of the day, it's up to us to demand the best possible health for ourselves and our daughters and our wives and our mothers."

Robach says her own daughters will begin mammograms at age 30, the same age she says she would have gotten her baseline if she could do it all over again. Still, she owes her life to early detection. "A mammogram gave me the best chance at survival, and the best chance at living as long as possible, and no one can tell me that a mammogram didn't save my life," she says. "Time will tell!"

 

Image via ABC/Ida Mae Astute

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