When Hilary Farr first had surgery to remove a precancerous breast tumor in 2012, she thought that was the end of it. But, as the HGTV star told People in a new interview, that experience was just the beginning of a breast cancer journey that would eventually include two more lumpectomies and radiation treatment.
Two years after that first tumor was detected, Farr, 70, was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer following a mammogram. She underwent another surgery to remove the tumor, but wasn't told she needed radiation treatment at the time, Farr told People.
But two months later she learned that it would be necessary. “I was terrified because I knew I had a very small window,” she said.
Farr was also frustrated with what she saw as a medical oversight that could have cost her dearly. “I felt absolute fury that someone could be so flippantly wrong,” she told People. “I could have been dead.”
The correct treatment course for a particular patient usually depends on the type of cancer, the size of the tumor and the stage in which it's detected. For people whose cancer is in the early non-invasive stages, surgery possibly followed by hormone therapy is the typical treatment, the American Cancer Society explains.
But for those who have invasive breast cancer, treatment often requires surgery followed by radiation treatment to reduce the chances that the cancer will return, the ACS says. Some patients might also receive chemotherapy or other drug treatments.
Finally, in 2015, Farr began radiation treatment. But doctors found another precancerous lump in her breast just seven months later that necessitated one more lumpectomy.
Farr, who is now in remission and gearing up for her new show "Tough Love with Hilary Farr," told People that she's sharing her story now to encourage others to get their routine breast cancer exams — and to not let the fear of a possible diagnosis get in the way.
She also wants to make it clear that people shouldn't feel like they need to manage their medical issues alone or in secret the way she did. That approach "doesn’t help and it doesn’t heal,” she said.
Women between the ages of 50 and 74 should get mammograms every other year to screen for breast cancer, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends. Those who are in their 40s can also decide to start to get regular screening if they and their health care providers feel the potential benefits outweigh the possible risks of doing so, the USPSTF says.
Although many people skipped routine appointments and tests like these during the pandemic, doctors are urging people to catch up on the regular screenings they may have missed.