Christiane Amanpour has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The anchor shared the news on Monday night at the top of her return to CNN International, after four weeks off the air. The last month has been a “bit of a roller coaster for me,” Amanpour told viewers. “During that time, like millions of women around the world, I have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer.”
Amanpour is currently in treatment. She said she has already had “successful major surgery” to remove the cancer. Now, Amanpour is undergoing several months of chemotherapy “for the very best possible long-term prognosis,” she said. “I’m confident.”
The British journalist said that she largely shared the personal news as a PSA for people to be proactive about their health, in regards to both ovarian cancer and other medical issues. “I’m telling you this in the interest of transparency,” Amanpour explained, “but in truth, really mostly as a shoutout to early diagnosis; to urge women to educate themselves on this disease; to get all the regular screenings and scans that you can.” She also implored viewers “to always listen to your bodies, and, of course, to ensure that your legitimate medical concerns are not dismissed or diminished.”
Amanpour, who was named a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Freedom of Expression and Journalist Safety in 2015, also thanked the co-workers that filled in for her during her leave. She added that she was grateful for her work-sponsored health insurance and team of “incredible” doctors, as well as the “brilliant” National Health Services (NHS), which is the U.K.’s public health care system. Amanpour concluded the segment, “That’s my news, now let’s get to the news.”
According to the latest estimates from the American Cancer Society (ACS), approximately 21,410 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with one of several types of ovarian cancer and 13,770 Americans will die from it this year. Most of those affected are older people with ovaries, with around half of diagnoses occurring in people over age 63, per the ACS. Other risk factors for ovarian cancer (as well as fallopian tube and peritoneal cancer) include having a family history of ovarian cancer, inheriting genes that predispose you to developing the disease (like a BRCA mutation), having endometriosis, and using hormone replacement therapy, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
While early diagnosis vastly improves survival rates for ovarian cancer, which is the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths in women in the U.S., only around 20% of cases are detected at an early stage, according to the ACS. This is because ovarian cancer is very difficult to detect, as SELF has reported. There are currently no reliable screening exams for ovarian cancer, the ACS says, meaning that in most cases they are not very accurate at detecting the disease, have flaws and risks, and haven’t been to shown to lower death rates. (The condition can be caught by pelvic exams, for instance, but this is extremely rare, per the ACS.) There are no recommended screening guidelines for people at average risk. However, people who carry risk factors for the condition, such as a family history and/or genetic predisposition, should talk to their doctor about potential screening options, because some methods (like genetic testing) may be more likely to detect certain kinds of ovarian cancer specifically among high-risk individuals, as SELF explains.
Beyond that, ovarian cancer rarely causes symptoms early on. By the time symptoms appear for most people, often the cancer is already advanced, the ACS explains. When symptoms do appear earlier, SELF explains, they tend to be more vague—and can also be signs of many other health issues (such as bloating, pelvic or stomach pain, and having to pee frequently).
Of course, just because these symptoms are most likely indicative of something other than ovarian cancer does not mean you should disregard them, because they may be signs that something else is going on with your health. As Amanpour emphasizes, it’s important to pay attention to anything unusual going on with your body, and advocate for yourself when something feels off. And generally speaking, it’s always a good idea to keep up with doctor’s appointments and regular screenings for other cancers and various conditions where there are evidence-based recommendations.