Meredith Vieira and her friend Angela LaGreca believe in the buddy system — and it turned out to be a potential lifesaver.
Vieira and LaGreca had gone for mammograms together in the past. But it had been two years since Vieira had one, and five for LaGreca, who is a supervising producer of “The Meredith Vieira Show.”
The friends buddied up again for the exam, and broadcast the results of the cancer screenings on Vieira’s new talk show on Friday, with unexpected results. While Vieira received a clean bill of health, a small, treatable breast cancer was detected in LaGreca.
“I literally owe Meredith my life, which is annoying, because now what do I get her for Christmas?” LaGreca said on TODAY Monday, alongside Vieira.
The friends last had a mammogram together in 2007, when both worked for TODAY. Vieira urged women to buddy up.
“You can encourage each other, nudge each other a little bit,” she said on TODAY. “Make a day of it, hopefully a celebratory day. But in the case where you get some bad news, it’s great to have a friend there. I was so glad to be there for Angela.”
The women discussed their mammograms with TODAY’s Hoda Kotb, who also had breast cancer several years ago.
LaGreca says she is still gathering opinions and information but says she will need chemotherapy, and may have a lumpectomy with radiation or maybe further treatment.
“It’s a little surreal,” she said, adding that she’s still processing the diagnosis. LaGreca will be sharing her treatment progress on The Meredith Vieira Show.
Kotb asked the women what kept them from getting a mammogram. Vieira noted that her mother had breast cancer, her grandmother died of the disease and her father was a doctor. “You would think I’d be so proactive about my health,” she said.
And LaGreca’s father read “400,000 mammograms” as a radiologist, she said.
“I think I thought if I didn’t go, no harm could happen to me,” Vieira said. “It’s total illogic.”
“It’s ridiculous,” her friend added.
LaGreca said she found “a million excuses” not to go, and believes that many women also avoid the test because they are fearful.
“I don’t think I’m unusual in the sense that so many put things off because really, you’re afraid,” she said. “And I know better. You know better. I really put it off.”
For their latest mammogram, the cameras followed them into the exam room.
Nine images were taken of Vieira before she was told she would need further testing through an ultrasound, sometimes used to screen women with dense breasts. Vieira then got the all-clear.
LaGreca also needed an ultrasound, and the doctor told her there was an area she needed to biopsy. The doctor wanted to stop filming.
“As the producer, I was looking up and I was a little stunned because I thought, ‘this is crazy,’” LaGreca said.
But then, LaGreca recalled on TODAY, she thought, “Meredith’s show is about being authentic. We weren’t going to come out and say ‘Oh, we had these great little mammograms.’ So I said ‘let’s continue.’”
Since then, she said, friends and colleagues have been spurred by her story to make their own mammogram appointments.
Vieira urged women to pair up, and try not to be scared.
“Get your mammogram,” she said. “Don’t be afraid. Go with a friend. I really do believe that’s the best thing you can do.”
LaGreca added a message to men about encouraging the women in their lives to get mammograms. “Fathers, husbands, boyfriends, brothers, cousins — say it,” she said, “and take it seriously.”
Lisa A. Flam is a news and lifestyles reporter in New York. Follow her on Twitter.