When Katie Couric shared the news of her breast cancer diagnosis, the former co-host of NBC’s “Today” show said she considered this new health challenge to be a teachable moment to encourage people to get needed cancer screenings.
“Please get your annual mammogram,” she wrote on her website in September. “But just as importantly, please find out if you need additional screening.”
In the essay, Couric, 65, explained that because she tends to have dense breast tissue, she gets an ultrasound test in addition to a mammogram when screening for breast cancer. A breast ultrasound, sometimes called a sonogram, uses sound waves to take images of the breast tissue. It can sometimes identify malignancies that are hard to spot on a mammogram in women whose breasts are dense — that is, having a high proportion of fibrous tissue and glands vs. fatty tissue.
Couric, who famously underwent a colonoscopy on live television after her first husband died of colon cancer and who lost her sister to pancreatic cancer, has long pushed for cancer screening and better detection options.
Breast cancer experts applauded Couric for drawing attention to breast density as a risk factor for cancer. But some were less comfortable with her advocacy for supplemental screening.
“We don’t have evidence that auxiliary screening reduces breast cancer mortality or improves quality of life,” said Dr. Carol Mangione, a professor of medicine and public health at UCLA who chairs the U.S. Preventive Servi …