On Monday a spokesperson for Sarah Ferguson told BBC News that the Duchess of York was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a single mastectomy, a surgery in which all the breast tissue is removed from one breast to treat and prevent the progression of the disease. In a recent episode of Ferguson’s podcast, Tea Talks With the Duchess and Sarah, she elaborated on the health news, admitting that she almost missed the routine screening that potentially saved her life.
“It was after a bank holiday…and it was a hot day, I didn’t feel like going to London,” she told cohost Sarah Thomson. “It’s easy to put it off: ‘I’ll do it next week.’”
Thankfully, her sister, Jane Ferguson Luedecke, encouraged her to follow through. “I always normally do what she says because she gets so cranky. She said, ‘No, go. I need you to go. I need you to go,’” Ferguson recalled.
The 63-year-old explained that the screening included an “injection” that “shows the contrast,” which sounds like a contrast-enhanced spectral mammography, newer testing in which an iodine-containing dye is injected into a person’s blood a few minutes before two mammograms are taken at different energy levels, per the American Cancer Society (ACS). In Ferguson’s case, the test revealed a small shadow that indicated cancerous cells.
“If I hadn’t done that…it was only a shadow,” she recalled. “They wouldn’t have found out that it needs to be immediately sorted.”
Ferguson’s spokesperson also said the surgery took place “successfully” and that her prognosis is good. The statement also noted that she was “symptom-free” ahead of her screening, which Ferguson now knows doesn’t negate the need for a checkup.
According to the ACS, when breast cancer is detected early and localized (meaning it hasn’t spread to other parts of the body), the five-year relative survival rate is 99%. Early symptoms can include a noticeable lump, changes in breast shape or contour, nipple changes, skin inflammation, and breast pain, among others.
On her podcast, Ferguson urged others to take their health seriously. “Go and get checked,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what you’re doing. Don’t say it’s not going to happen to you. Doesn’t matter if you feel fine. Cancer can be so silent.”