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Sofia Vergara discusses thyroid cancer diagnosis at 28, urges screenings

The actor stressed the importance of early detection.
/ Source: TODAY

Actor Sofia Vergara opened up about her thyroid cancer diagnosis more than 20 years ago.

Vergara made her remarks while appearing on a telecast on Saturday for Stand Up to Cancer, a charity co-founded by Katie Couric in 2008. Vergara co-hosted the event for the organization, which has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for cancer research.

The "Modern Family" star, 49, said that the cancer was discovered during a routine doctor's visit.

"At 28 years old during a routine doctor's visit, my doctor felt a lump in my neck," Vergara said. "They did a lot of tests and finally told me I had thyroid cancer."

Vergara said that she was surprised by the news but tried to focus on learning more about the diagnosis.

"When you're young and you hear that word, 'cancer,' your mind goes to so many places," Vergara said. "But I tried not to panic and I decided to get educated. I read every book and found out everything I could about it."

Initially, Vergara didn't make the diagnosis public. In 2011, she told Health that she didn't want any attention while she was dealing with the disease, noting that "you don't want to deal with anything else while you're going through" treatment. After undergoing surgery to remove her thyroid gland, Vergara also had some radiation and now takes a thyroid hormone pill every day.

"I feel very lucky," Vergara told Health. "In a lot of woman, the cancer isn't found until around menopause, and by then it's too late."

According to the American Cancer Society, thyroid cancer is diagnosed at a younger age than other adult cancers and is much more common in women. A family history of thyroid cancer could increase one's risk. Other risk factors include people who have obesity or who have been exposed to radiation.

The actor said that early detection helped her in her journey to overcoming the disease. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, doctors and other health care experts have stressed the importance of maintaining regular screenings, and some have expressed concern that missed appointments will lead to cancer and other illnesses being diagnosed later.

"I was fortunate to have caught it early and to have the support of my doctors and most importantly, my family," Vergara said during the Stand Up to Cancer telecast. "I learned a lot during that time, not just about thyroid cancer but I also learned that in times of crisis, we're better together."

Vergara said that that team spirit would be needed to "end cancer."

"We're better together and if we're going to end cancer, it's going to require a team effort," Vergara said.