How Ann Romney Won Her Fight Against Breast Cancer

The wife of Mitt Romney caught the disease early

Mitt and Ann Romney
Mitt and Ann Romney. George Frey/Getty Images

Ann Romney, wife of former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney, was diagnosed and treated for early-stage breast cancer in 2008. Soon after her diagnosis, she released a statement saying she had been diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in-situ a non-invasive type of breast cancer that is considered to be a precancerous form of the disease.

After a routine mammogram, the then 59-year-old underwent a lumpectomy, followed by radiation therapy.

While ductal carcinoma in-situ is not life threatening, when left untreated, in some cases it can become invasive. According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 5 cases of breast cancer diagnosed are DCIS. Risk factors include:

Other risk factors include being a carrier of the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene, having a family history of breast cancer and also early onset of menstruation (before age 12) or late menopause (after age 55).

Ann Romney's Breast Cancer Diagnosis 

Romney's diagnosis came after a routine mammogram. It is not clear whether she experienced any symptoms at the time of her screening. It is common for women to lack symptoms with DCIS. This makes having a regular mammogram essential for diagnosing breast cancer, especially early cases of the disease, as in Romney's case. The National Cancer Institute reports that 80 percent of women with DCIS are diagnosed through routine mammograms.

Though uncommon, when DCIS symptoms are present, women may experience a lump in their breast or armpit. Nipple discharge may also occur.

Ann Romney's Cancer Treatment

Romney underwent a lumpectomy, a procedure that removes only part of the breast. The goal of the procedure is to remove the abnormal breast while conserving as much healthy breast tissue as possible.

Most women who have lumpectomies do not need any type of breast reconstruction surgery.

Women with a greater extent of DCIS may require a mastectomy, the surgical removal of the entire breast. Many women with DCIS only require a lumpectomy, however. Several factors are considered when evaluating the need for a lobectomy and mastectomy. Ten questions may help you decide which course to take.

Romney also had radiation therapy after her lumpectomy, which is a standard for most women who have a lumpectomy to treat DCIS. Radiation therapy reduces the risk of a recurrence.

A side effect of having breast cancer surgery and radiation therapy is lymphedema, a condition marked by the excess accumulation of lymph fluid in the tissues. In women undergoing breast cancer treatment, the result is temporary or chronic swelling in the arms, breast, and chest.

Life After DCIS

Romney has remained relatively private about her diagnosis and treatment with DCIS. She has said that horseback riding helped her to cope with her health problems, which also include having multiple sclerosis.

After treatment, some women must have frequent mammograms, even if they had a mastectomy. Regular screenings help to diagnose a recurrence earlier.

The typical interval is every six months after a lumpectomy for at least a few years.

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