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Sarah Ferguson opens up about 'shock' of being diagnosed with 2 cancers in 1 year

The Duchess of York shared on Jan. 21 that she has been diagnosed with skin cancer months after receiving treatment for breast cancer.
/ Source: TODAY

Less than a month after sharing that she “beat breast cancer,” Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, has been diagnosed with skin cancer. 

Ferguson, 64, said she had been resting with her family at home after receiving treatment in a Jan. 22 Instagram post.

"I have been taking some time to myself as I have been diagnosed with malignant melanoma, a form of skin cancer, my second cancer diagnosis within a year after I was diagnosed with breast cancer this summer and underwent a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery," she wrote. "It was thanks to the great vigilance of my dermatologist that the melanoma was detected when it was."

"Naturally another cancer diagnosis has been a shock but I’m in good spirits and grateful for the many messages of love and support," she continued.

Ferguson added that she hopes her experience "underlines the importance of checking the size, shape, color and texture and emergence of new moles that can be a sign of melanoma and urge anyone who is reading this to be diligent."

A representative for the British royal confirmed her skin cancer diagnosis in a statement to Jan. 21. 

“Following her diagnosis with an early form of breast cancer this summer, Sarah, Duchess of York has now been diagnosed with malignant melanoma,” the spokesperson said. “Her dermatologist asked that several moles were removed and analysed at the same time as the duchess was undergoing reconstructive surgery following her mastectomy, and one of these has been identified as cancerous.”

The spokesperson added that the duchess will have more examinations to determine if the melanoma was “caught in the early stages.” Despite the frightening health update, the spokesperson said Ferguson is in “good spirits.”

“Clearly, another diagnosis so soon after treatment for breast cancer has been distressing, but the duchess remains in good spirits,” the rep said. 

“The Duchess wants to thank the entire medical team which has supported her, particularly her dermatologist whose vigilance ensured the illness was detected when it was. She believes her experience underlines the importance of checking the size, shape, colour and texture and emergence of new moles that can be a sign of melanoma,” the statement concluded.

What is melanoma?

Melanoma usually appears on parts of the body that are frequently exposed to the sun, such as the arms, face, back and legs, according to the Mayo Clinic. The exact cause of the cancer hasn’t been determined, but ultraviolet light, which can come from sunlight or tanning lamps and beds, can increase risk. 

“Most melanomas are caused by exposure to ultraviolet light,” the clinic said. 

According to the American Cancer Society, melanoma occurs when melanocytes, the top layers of the skin, grow out of control. 

Although melanoma is less common than other types of skin cancers, the American Cancer Society says it “is more dangerous because it’s much more likely to spread to other parts of the body if not found and treated early.”

One sign of melanoma is a mole that changes in size, shape or color, the National Cancer Institute says. Another sign is a change in skin pigmentation. Treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy and target therapy. 

How is Sarah Ferguson's health?

Ferguson has been battling health issues for the past six months. In June 2023, a representative for Ferguson told NBC News that the duchess was undergoing treatment for breast cancer

“The duchess is receiving the best medical care, and her doctors have told her that the prognosis is good,” the spokesperson said at the time. 

Ferguson spent time recovering with her family, the spokesperson said. 

Her breast cancer was identified after her mammogram. She emphasized “the importance of regular screening” in the statement from her spokesperson. 

A day after she shared her breast cancer diagnosis, she thanked fans for their uplifting messages in an Instagram post.

“Thank you so much for such kindness and support,” she wrote over a photo of a pink flower June 26, 2023. 

She also spoke about her health on an episode of her podcast, “Tea Talks with the Duchess and Sarah,” which she co-hosts with friend and entrepreneur Sarah Thomson. In the episode, recorded before Ferguson underwent a single mastectomy, the royal thanked the Royal Free Hospital for taking care of her. 

For her final Instagram post of 2023, the duchess reflected on her health struggles and the “ups and downs” she experienced throughout the year. She also shared an update on her breast cancer treatment. 

“I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I beat breast cancer and now I have got a Derek on my left,” she wrote in December 2023, referring to the name she gave her reconstructed breast after surgery.

She previously explained on an episode of her podcast in August 2023 that she chose “Derek” because it made her laugh.

At the end of the Instagram post, she concluded, “I am 64 and just getting started. I hope everyone takes time to reflect and to look forward with love and positivity. Happy New Year, #2024!”