Elizabeth Hurley: Breast Cancer Ambassador

The actress shares how the loss of her grandmother led her to travel the world to raise awareness of breast cancer—and to protect her own health.

Ellen Byron

"We're all scared of breast cancer. But the American Cancer Society tells us that among women whose breast cancer is diagnosed at an early stage and is localized, 99% survive more than five years. That's why it's so important to get the message out and tell women to see their doctors regularly and get a mammogram every year if they're over the age of 40."

Elizabeth’s breast cancer protection plan
Be active—and eat right. “I try to follow alow-fat diet and stay active,” says Elizabeth.

Why it might help you: In a recent study published in Cancer, researchers found that women who worked out 10 to 19 hours per week experienced a 30% reduced risk of breast cancer. A benefit was also found for fewer hours of exercise. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends being active for 45 to 60 minutes on five or more days of the week. That will help keep your weight in check, which is important because excess pounds can boost your risk of breast cancer. Cutting back on your fat intake can also help.

Get screened. “Evelyn Lauder made me promise that I would have an annual mammogram once I hit 40—and, in fact, she gave me my first one for my birthday present that year,” says Elizabeth. “I feel really nervous before every mammogram, and I feel physically sick when waiting for the result. Luckily, so far, everything has been good, but it’s nail-biting time. However, I am comforted by the fact that I was tested only a year before. So if anything were found, it would hopefully be small and treatable.”

Why it might help you: Annual mammograms starting at age 40 can detect tumors before they can be felt—and help reduce deaths from breast cancer, according to the ACS. Women should also have a clinical breast exam (performed by a healthcare provider) annually.

Know your breasts. Elizabeth is a firm believer in self-exams. “I know many women who discovered their own tumors by self-examination,” she says.

Why it might help you: Regularly examining your breasts helps you become familiar with how they normally look and feel so you can detect any abnormalities more easily. Report any unusual changes—such as a lump, skin dimpling, and nipple pain, redness or discharge other than breast milk—to your healthcare provider immediately, recommends the ACS. For step-by-step instructions, go to cancer.org.

November 2012