Good Morning America's Robin Roberts: 'I Have Breast Cancer'

updated 08/13/2007 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/13/2007 01:00AM

She wanted to remain calm, dry-eyed and keep the focus on the disease she had just been diagnosed with—an illness, after all, that hundreds of thousands of women battle each year. When Good Morning America's Robin Roberts announced that she has breast cancer during the July 31 live broadcast, grasping coanchor Diane Sawyer's hand for support, she managed to hold her tears, if not her obvious emotions, in check. But as soon as the broadcast broke for a commercial, says GMA weatherman Sam Champion, "there was a sigh from everyone holding their breath to not be that emotional." Then came the tears and hugs. "Everyone in the studio and people from the control room came out to the desk," he says.

Roberts, 46, did not elaborate on her diagnosis beyond saying she discovered a lump in her breast during a self-exam inspired by the June death of longtime colleague and ABC film critic Joel Siegel from colon cancer. "At first I thought, 'This can't be. I am a young, healthy woman,'" she wrote on the ABC Web site. But a biopsy confirmed "an early form of breast cancer." Roberts is scheduled to undergo surgery and further treatment, and said she was determined to remain on the broadcast through "my good days and my bad days." According to Dr. Eric Winer, director of the Breast Oncology Center at Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, who is not treating Roberts, women with lumps detected early generally undergo a lumpectomy, followed by radiation and other treatments. If an examination of tissue determines the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, more surgery may be required. Although each case is different, says Dr. Winer, "even if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, women can still do very, very well with the treatment that we have today."

Roberts, never married, a college basketball star from Pass Christian, Miss., who won praise for her coverage of her hometown's plight after Hurricane Katrina, said she intended to lean on her mother, Lucimarian, who would be in New York for her surgery Aug. 3. "Robin comes from a very close family," says GMA executive producer Tom Cibrowski, "and they all will be rallying around her."

For more information go to WWW.KOMEN.ORG, WWW.BREASTCANCER.ORG

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