Television broadcaster Amy Robach has led a distinguished career in TV journalism, reporting for ABC News, NBC News, and the Saturday edition of NBC’s Today. However, when most fans think of Robach, they think of her work on two popular shows in particular: 20/20 and Good Morning America (GMA). Robach joined the GMA team as a correspondent in 2013, and became an anchor the following year. Yet the star’s life and career were thrown into uncertainty when, shortly after her initial GMA debut, she was blindsided with a breast cancer diagnosis. Read on for the shocking story of how her cancer was found live on the air, and why she believed her cancer was “nearly impossible” before getting her first mammogram.
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In 2013, GMA producers decided to run a segment on the importance of mammograms during Breast Cancer Awareness month. Because Robach was 40 years old and had never before had a mammogram, they asked her to consider receiving the screening on the show in hopes of encouraging other women to do the same.
At first, Robach was reluctant to undergo the screening so publicly. “I did not want to initially go and have this test because I didn’t want people talking about my breasts,” she explained in a 2021 interview for GMA. However, after talking it over with her co-star and breast cancer survivor Robin Roberts, she decided that if the segment saved even one life, any awkwardness would be worthwhile. She agreed to the show and received her mammogram in early October, camera crew in tow.
Shockingly, the test revealed a mass in her right breast and a stage 2 cancer diagnosis. “I was asked to get a follow-up mammogram, [and told] that they saw something that was probably nothing. I dragged my feet,” she said. “A few weeks later, October 30th, I went in for my follow-up and five hours later I had a breast cancer diagnosis, and I couldn’t have been more shocked,” the 20/20 host added. The following month, doctors found a second tumor in her left breast and determined that the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes.
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Robach admits that she fretted about the show before taping—but never about the possibility of actually having cancer. “I was nervous about how it was going to look having a live camera right there on me as I was getting a mammogram,” she told Coping with Cancer magazine in 2015. “But more than that, I was worried about whether it would be effective. I didn’t want it to be a distraction to what we were trying to do, which was [to] encourage women to get mammograms and to show that it isn’t that painful or scary.”
“I honestly thought it was nearly impossible for me to have breast cancer given my age and my lack of family history,” Robach said. “Even when I got the call from the mammogram technician saying, Hey, we see something a little suspicious; you should have a follow-up mammogram, alarm bells didn’t go off,” she added.
Robach’s diagnosis hit her like a ton of bricks. “I had a visceral, guttural reaction,” she told Coping. “To say I was sobbing is an understatement. There was nothing anyone could have told me that would have been more shocking than that. I didn’t know how to react. My entire world collapsed, and I was there alone. It was absolutely the worst day of my life.”
Though she leaned on family for support, she says Roberts played a special role in her diagnosis and treatment, having gone through cancer treatment herself. “It’s remarkable when you’re going through cancer even though you know millions of people are going through it at the same time—have been through it—and yet you feel so alone,” she shared with GMA. “And so, if you can find one person who’s been down that path, who can help guide you, who you can look to and say, ‘I can get there, I can be there.’ For me, that was Robin Roberts who was sitting right next to me, and she was a beacon of light for me to see what I could hope for—what could be me one day. That I could be on the other side of this.”
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Having gotten her initial mammogram on the air, Robach says she knew immediately that she would share her cancer diagnosis with GMA’s audience. “I felt a deep responsibility to share my news because I knew that when women who had watched me go into that mammogram heard I had breast cancer, they would stop making excuses, pick up the phone, and call their doctor to schedule their appointment. I knew for a fact that women’s lives would be saved,” she told GMA.
In retrospect, she now realizes that opening up about her breast cancer also helped her through the eight “grueling” rounds of chemotherapy she underwent, motivating her to push through her darkest moments. “Sharing my journey helped me get through those horrible months of treatment,” the TV star says. “I felt the collective love and support of all the other women out there who were struggling with the same thing I was. I felt like I had a whole new set of friends and sisters. And it had a huge impact on my recovery,” she told Coping.
Robach now believes that being open with others can help anyone dealing with cancer, even absent a countrywide fanbase. “I would just encourage everyone to tell your story because it does save lives, it does impact lives and it frees you,” she said on GMA. “I find talking about it makes it a little bit less painful because you’re releasing it and you can have a shared experience with someone else because there are so many of us out there who’ve been through it. We’re all brothers and sisters in this fight,” she added.
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