"Good Morning America" anchor Robin Roberts announced on air today that she will begin undergoing chemotherapy Thursday to treat breast cancer, but she plans to work as often as she can.
After a successful surgery Aug. 3, Roberts said her doctors determined that chemotherapy will be the most effective form of treatment. That will be followed by radiation treatment, she said.
"Tomorrow I will come in, and then head off for my chemotherapy," she said.
She expressed her thanks to viewers, co-workers and guests for their incredible outpouring of well-wishes.
Roberts said that many viewers had tips and ideas for dealing with treatment.
"Somebody said eat a lot of bacon before I have chemo," she said. "I don't know about that one. That's a new one."
Roberts also said she had a great "heart-to-heart" talk about cancer with Tony Snow, who just resigned as the White House press secretary after being diagnosed with colon cancer.
"I'll work as much as I can," Roberts said. "Part of the reason I am coming forward is in case you tune in and it looks like Kojak is sitting next to Diane, you'll understand why."
Some questioned when Roberts would return to work after having her surgery in August, but her doctor and others she met through e-mails said getting back to work would be the best medicine.
Roberts returned to work Monday, Aug. 13, but she is just one of many women fighting cancer and trying to maintain a normal life.
Dr. Lauren Cassell, chief of breast surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York and Roberts' doctor, said patients can expect to feel different after various forms of treatment. She addresses some common treatment questions below.
How soon can women get back to work after treatment?
Cassell: My goal is to give my patients back their life. Everything we do is geared toward helping them do that.
It depends on the woman and the kind of treatment she has, but there's no reason why a woman can't go back to work during her treatment.
A patient gets chemotherapy every two or three weeks, and there will be a few days around the treatment when she won't feel well.
However, we now have great meds that minimize side effects, so even if she has chemo Friday, she can be back at work Monday. Therefore, most women can miss one day of work and feel good enough to go back.
The biggest issue for women who undergo chemo is hair loss. As a doctor it's important that I make sure my patients are prepared for that to happen.
Most of my patients get wigs. I'll tell them to get a wig before they lose their hair, so the wig maker can match their natural hair, or to bring a picture with them. Other women choose to wear a bandana or scarf. I have one patient who sewed bangs into a scarf so that she would have the look of hair without the hotness of a wig.
Not all chemo regimens cause women to lose their hair.
What about the effects of radiation?
Cassell: Most patients just fit radiation into their regular schedule. They can go before work, during lunch or after work. Fatigue is the biggest side effect.
No one has to know you're having radiation. You can choose to keep it private. Not everyone wants to share what they're going through.
What about the effects of a lumpectomy?
Cassell: A lumpectomy is used when breast cancer is found at its earliest stage. It's done like a biopsy, and you can leave the hospital that same day or overnight if we have to test the glands.