Christina Applegate: MRI 'saved my life'
October 15th, 2010
06:22 PM ET

Christina Applegate: MRI 'saved my life'

Breast cancer survivor, and mother-to-be, Christina Applegate sat down with CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, to discuss her battle against cancer and how early detection may have saved her life. Applegate’s foundation, Right Action for Women, provides advanced screening and genetic testing to women at high risk for breast Cancer.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA: If you hadn’t received the MRI at that point, do you have any idea what would have happened to you?

CHRISTINA APPLEGATE: They probably would have found the cancer on my next mammogram a year later, where it would have been a much bigger tumor, and could have been a much worse scenario. So, it saved my life. It would have been a whole other year before I went in again for my next mammogram.

GUPTA: Most women, as you said, don’t know about MRIs with respect to screening for breast cancer.

APPLEGATE: Well it’s not talked about and I also think that you know, there’s also been a lot of talk that there’s all these false positives with MRIs but there are false positives with any kind of screening. Same with mammography – there is also a lot of false positives. They are not perfect science, unfortunately. But they’re learning more and more now that it’s, it’s an incredible way to screen for early detection.

GUPTA: One of the things I hear all the time as a doctor is that you doctors order too many tests – you’re ordering tests for everything. What do you say to people who say look we’re a culture of over-testing as it is?

APPLEGATE: Well, it’s just a really good test. I mean, I can’t stress enough, it saved my life. There’s no if, and, or but about it. I had just had a mammogram. There was nothing on it. This [breast cancer] was something that if found at a stage that was curable, instead of at a stage where it’s not. I don’t care what anyone says about that – I know that to be the truth. I also unfortunately know that, you know, the MRI screenings are incredibly expensive and a lot of insurance companies don’t cover that – um, which is why I started my foundation, because it just really – it’d upset me so much that, you know, these women were opting to not have this really valuable screening, because of money, and because we’re not taking care of these women who are high risk. So that’s um, one of the things that really got me when I was going through all of this.

GUPTA: Should insurance companies be hearing what you have to say, I mean, ultimately?

APPLEGATE: Absolutely. This should be a part of it. You know, I mean, we, you know, MRIs should be in tandem with mammography – that’s just what I truly believe. But until then, with right action for women, we’re going to provide financial aid to these women. Um, we’re also going to have, you know, education on women who have the genetic mutation, and what they’re options are. At that point, we’ve assembled an incredible group of doctors and nutritionists, and what not, who are on there to kind of guide everyone through the process.

GUPTA: I think the jury is still out a little bit on exactly how it’s going to play out with insurance coverage of breast cancer screening. Do you think it helps when people like you speak and you hear that an MRI saved your life and that they are expensive but maybe it’s time for them to get cheaper, more widely available?

APPLEGATE: Yeah – that would be nice. I love what my foundation is about to do but if they could make it so that we don’t have to work so hard.

GUPTA: Put you out of business?

APPLEGATE: It would be. I would love that. I would love nothing more than [for us], and all of these breast cancer organizations too, to have to close their doors because we don’t have to have this as a part of our vernacular anymore, you know. It’s just, you know, it’s a dream.

GUPTA: How are you doing with the pregnancy?

APPLEGATE: I’m good – as you can see I’m hot flashing a little bit, but that happens a couple times a day. (laughing) It has been such a wild ride.

GUPTA: You look fantastic. And you have a very specific diet that you’ve been maintaining – this was even before the pregnancy. Have you been able to maintain the diet while pregnant?

APPLEGATE: Yeah, I actually have. I adopted a macrobiotic diet when I was diagnosed with cancer two years ago. It’s one of which I adhere to about eighty-two percent of the time. I gotta have pizza every once in a while, you know! You gotta go off and enjoy these things, – that’s part of the mental, physical, spiritual, emotional, scientific part of it. It’s all interconnected. But I’ve been able to stick it fine. As far as gaining weight, I’m right on track.

Programming note: To see more of Dr. Gupta’s conversation with Christina Applegate, tune in to “Sanjay Gupta M.D.” on CNN at 7:30 a.m. ET, Saturday-Sunday.

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.