'The View' lifestyle expert Gretta Monahan opens up about being diagnosed with breast cancer

She discovered she had cancer during her annual screening.

October 4, 2019, 2:59 PM

"I have breast cancer."

During an appearance on "The View" Friday, Gretta Monahan, the show's lifestyle expert, said it was "the first time" that she had "said that out loud."

Monahan said that she'd chosen to share her cancer experience on national television in an effort to encourage women to remind each other to take five minutes to give themselves breast self-examinations and see their doctors for annual screenings.

"I know some people are afraid. … But you got to get there," Monahan said.

Monahan's cancer was discovered when she went for her annual screening in May, she said.

"Because I have dense breasts, I have a mammogram and ultrasound. My cancer was not detected on mammogram," she said. "I laid on the table for my ultrasound and after we got through talking about kids and catching up ... she said, 'I see something I do not like. I see a mass and I need to show you. It is small, but this is something I'll need to biopsy.'"

Monahan said she had a needle biopsy the next day, and a day later, she got the news.

"She called me at home -- I was with my husband -- and she said, 'I'm sorry to tell you this. You have breast cancer,'" Monahan said. "It was terrifying and it was shocking. … We kind of both just sat there and there was a long pause. And, I said to her, 'Are you sure?' She said, 'I'm sure. I’m sorry.'"

Monahan was advised to have a unilateral mastectomy, in which the breast where the cancer was detected is removed.

"My lesions were only detected in my left breast. I had an MRI follow-up after the mammogram and ultrasound and that even showed that there was more foci, which are basically floating cancer cells," she said.

Monahan said that after she received the news, she paused to research and speak to other women with similar experiences.

"This was so important and critical because what I decided at that moment was that I wanted to feel empowered. I wanted to feel beautiful and better than ever after this," she said. "I did not want to feel just fine or OK or settle. So for me, I decided to have a double mastectomy. I decided to have both off."

Monahan underwent the double mastectomy. Ultimately, she said, doctors found cancer in both breasts.

"'Your right breast did not show up in any diagnostic testing -- [it was] very, very tiny -- but it was invasive carcinoma, both ductal and lobular, and thank God you took that breast off,'" Monahan said her doctors had told her.

This week, the wife and mother of two will receive her seventh round of chemotherapy, she said.

"I can report good results and tolerance to chemo thus far," she told ABC News. "[My] prognosis is excellent, [with a] 90+% cure rate."

Dr. Jen Ashton, ABC News' chief medical correspondent, echoed the importance of self-examinations.

PHOTO: Lifestyle expert on "The View" Gretta Monahan opened up about her breast cancer diagnosis on the show Friday and was joined by ABC News Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Jen Ashton.
Lifestyle expert on "The View" Gretta Monahan opened up about her breast cancer diagnosis on the show Friday and was joined by ABC News Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Jen Ashton.

"My motto is, if it is attached to your body, you should know what that feels like," she said. "Then, it’s up to us in the medical profession to say, 'That's something to worry about. That's not something to worry about.' Feel it. If it's a part of you, get to know it."

Ashton said there are many detection methods but no consensus on what the "best" option is.

"Whether it's MRI, ultrasound, mammogram, self-breast exam, clinician breast exam, we need to individualize this for each woman," Ashton said. "There is no one-size-fits-all screening test for every woman."

"When you hear those recommendations, they are for the average-risk woman, and unfortunately, most women, like Gretta, are average risk until the day they hear those words," she added.

She also pointed out that "men get breast cancer as well and they don't get screened because it's so much more uncommon in men."