Early Detection A Key In Surviving Breast Cancer

Good Morning America co-host, Robin Roberts, has breast cancer. The 46-year-old Roberts is from Pass Christian, Mississippi, and used to anchor sports at WLOX T-V. The good news is Robin's cancer was detected early.

As many of you saw early Tuesday morning, Robin made the announcement live on Good Morning America. She's among 250,000 women who are diagnosed with breast cancer each year.

While the numbers are alarming, the survival rate continues to climb. Gulfport Oncologist Dr. Edwin Davidson says early detection is the key.

"Mammograms and self breast examinations are the life saver," Dr. Davidson said.

Roberts was prompted to do a self breast exam after covering a story about her colleague, Joel Seigel, who died of colon cancer.  Robin told GMA, "That very night I found a lump."

She says her cancer didn't show up on a mammogram, but her doctor followed up with an ultrasound, something Doctor Davidson says patients needs to be aware of.

"If there's a lump there and the mammogram is negative, don't stop there, you're going to have to assess it with an ultrasound or MRI, go the next step."

That next step is critical, because he says if breast cancer is caught early, the survival rate is higher than 90 percent.

"If you catch it early, you're talking cure, it's not going to come back."

Dr. Davidson says many people have put their health on the back burner during this post Katrina rebuilding phase on the coast, and because of that he's seen a higher incidence of more advanced cancer cases that are more difficult to treat. He hopes Roberts story will help remind people about how important early detection is.

"It's the difference between life and death."

He says women should start early and learn the proper method for self examinations, in their twenties.

"It's a simple matter of lathering up with soap, judge the skin texture and glide the hand through the area where it might be and get used to what things feel like and sense the changes."

In addition, the American Cancer Society recommends women have a clinical breast exam every three years starting in their twenties, and every year beginning at age 40.  And they should also have an annual mammogram starting at age 40, or earlier if there's a family history.