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Larry King Live
How to Cope With Breast CancerAired September 15, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: breast cancer survivor Diahann Carroll. Every three minutes an American woman is diagnosed with the disease she's fought. With her in L.A., co-star of "The West Wing," Rob Lowe. His grandmother had breast cancer, and he's speaking out for awareness. In New York, "Today" show news anchor Ann Curry. Her sister is a breast cancer survivor; and the famed Dr. Larry Norton, director of the Evelyn Lauder Breast Cancer Center at Memorial Sloan- Kettering.
An hour that could save your life -- next on LARRY KING LIVE.
We have an outstanding panel. We have a very important topic. Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among women aged 40-59. During this year, 182,800 women will be diagnosed with it, 40,800 will die of it; 1,400 men will be diagnosed, and 400 men will die of it.
Before we get into each panelist's individual story, Dr. Norton, simply put -- maybe it's stupid -- what is breast cancer?
DR. LARRY NORTON, MEMORIAL SLOAN-KETTERING CANCER CTR.: Well, cancer is an abnormal growth of cells of any part of the body. And the breast has two kinds of cells. It has the cells that make milk and the cells that conduct milk to the nipple. Breast cancers mostly arise from the cells that conduct the milk to the nipple, the lining of the tube. And what happens is, the cells starts to devise there's too many of them. And they spread into the surrounding breast.
That's what makes the lump. And then the really serious part is that these cells can learn a very abnormal behavior. They can learn how to spread outside of the breast to other parts of the body. We call that metastasis.
KING: And that's what kills.
NORTON: And that's the real problem.
KING: Now, men, who don't make milk, get it how?
NORTON: Well, men have breasts. They still have small breasts. You know, and if...
(CROSSTALK) NORTON: If a normal man took estrogen, those little breasts would grow and would turn into breasts that would be somewhat like a female breast.
KING: Diahann, when were you diagnosed with it?
DIAHANN CARROLL, BREAST CANCER VICTIM: Approximately two-and-a- half years ago. And, as you know, Larry, it's the one word that every woman dreads. You don't want to hear it. But once I realized I had it, the only thing to do was to learn as much as possible about it. And I'm feeling fine. I'd like to establish that right away, because so many people say, you know: How do you feel? I feel great.
But it's a frightening, frightening experience. And I'm happy to have had the support system that I had.
KING: How did you pick it up? Was it a self-exam? Were you -- in a regular check-up, what?
CARROLL: I have -- I have, first of all, a regular check-up every year. And my message, when I'm on the road, is constantly the same -- it's the same dialogue. It's called early detection, early detection, early detection, until they don't want to hear it anymore. But that's the only reason I think that I'm sitting here today is because I have a fabulous doctor.
And during my regular exam, he said to me, "I'd like to see you again in about three weeks."
And I said, "Why?"
And he said, "Well, we will discuss that when you come back."
I went back. And we discovered that there was a lump. And I can't describe that moment, Larry. It's a moment that every woman who has ever lived through it has their own feeling, their own emotion about it. But then, we went through radiation -- and about 12 weeks of it. And, you know, we have wonderful treatment today. But it...
KING: No surgery?
CARROLL: You have the lumpectomy. That you must have once the lump is there in order to determine, first of all, the size -- mine was less than a centimeter -- and then the type of cancer that it is.
KING: Yeah. You did not have a breast removed, though?
CARROLL: No. I'm extremely lucky -- and just those words that almost bring tears to one -- no, I'm very lucky.
KING: We will get to Rob in a second. His grandmother had breast cancer. And he's very involved in this. And we'll talk about that.
But, Anne, it was your sister, right? ANN CURRY, NBC "TODAY" SHOW: Yes, my younger sister. She was just 40 when she was diagnosed. And her husband found the lump, in fact. And I think this speaks to how oftentimes women aren't paying attention to their own -- to waht's happening and don't do those monthly exams a week after
KING: So he said to her: I feel something?
CURRY: Yes, and it was a three centimeters, Larry: a relatively large lump. And I still remember -- I'll never forget the fear...
KING: She called you?
CURRY: Oh! The fear in her voice: "Ann, I want to -- I don't want to die."
She has three children. "I want to see them grow up." Just the -- we had to really sit on her to make sure that she didn't just react so quickly and do the first thing that a doctor told her, which was to have a double mastectomy. And we had to sit on her and say, "Look, you know, let's make sure we're doing the right thing."
KING: And you brought Dr. Norton in for the matter.
CURRY: And I called -- I did. I did. And, you know, I have -- I am one of those people who never says, "Listen, I'm Ann Curry, give me that reservation tonight for this restaurant." I'm always the one who always doesn't do that. But in this particular case, I became a warrior. And I found out that this is the man to call. And I asked Dr. Norton what to do and, sort of, basically the first -- first steps of what you do when you're in this situation.
He spent almost an hour with me answering the questions. And I felt so wonderful, so good.
NORTON: Well, the first step is not to panic. I mean, that's the first...
KING: What did she eventually wind up doing?
CURRY: She ended up -- ended up having lumpectomy. She had radiation to shrink the size of the tumor. She had a lumpectomy. And she has had chemotherapy. She has had her first chess -- this was last January -- they found no sign.
But I -- you know, you're right -- not to panic. How do you not panic when you think you're going to die?
KING: How do you not?
NORTON: That's message number one. The message number one is gather the information you need to make the decisions.
KING: And Rob Lowe, your grandmother passed away from it? ROB LOWE, ACTOR: Yeah. She was diagnosed when I was a little boy. And she was really a second mother to me. So I witnessed how tough it can be on everybody. And as a man, I wanted to get involved, to get the men out there to ask their wives and their daughters and the women in their lives that they love to get themselves checked and checked early.
KING: How old was your grandmother when she died?
LOWE: She was -- she lived a very long time with breast cancer, which is one of the reasons why raising money is so important, because it absolutely gave her an additional almost 18 years. And she was finally -- let's see -- she was 83 when he died.
KING: Now, you, you're spokesman for the Lee National Denim Day.
LOWE: That's correct.
KING: That's the Lee Jeans company?
LOWE: That's right. It's the largest single-day fund raiser for breast cancer. And it's October 6.
KING: What do they do?
LOWE: And -- what happens is, is companies can call the 800- number, which is 1-800-521-5533, and you register. And the employees then -- in a grassroots way -- just pledge five bucks a person. And then on October 6, you wear your jeans to work as a show of solidarity.
KING: That's a good idea. And you are the spokesperson for that. And the day you wear the jeans is October 6.
LOWE: That's right. I'm trying to figure out a way to wear my jeans in the Oval Office for "The West Wing."
KING: Rob, are many men involved in this movement?
LOWE: You know, when they asked me, I -- it took me a minute to figure what I could bring to this, other than my personal experience, which frankly, is the most important thing. But I thought, as a man, it might get other men's attention. You know, it's a woman's disease statistically. But that spreads to fathers and to sons. And it affects everybody. So I figured I might be able to put maybe a different face on it.
KING: We will be right back with our panel on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. It's our topic for the full show. Don't go away.
KING: Now, Dr. Larry Norton, when -- when -- when do you do this mastectomy. Why doesn't everybody do it? When do you do the tests? When -- what -- give me the procedure.
NORTON: One of the really wonderful things about advances over the past decade or so has been that people do have choices. I mean, for some people, mastectomy is the right thing to do.
Now not everybody is a candidate for what we call breast conservation, that is just doing a lumpectomy and radiation. It has to be a relatively small tumor. The ratio between the size of the tumor and the breast is important, the location of the tumor in the breast. There are a number of factors.
KING: When do you do the exam?
CURRY: The mammograms.
NORTON: Oh, the mammograms.
KING: The mammograms.
NORTON: Oh, the mammograms are really crucial.
KING: And when do you do that?
NORTON: For sure, everybody recommends that every woman gets a mammogram once a years starting at age 50. At Memorial, we start at 40. We think that the evidence is if you start at age 40 and every year you get a mammogram, that's going to improve your odds of being cured.
KING: That's the first step.
NORTON: That's the first step.
KING: Every woman should get this, right?
NORTON: Every woman should get this.
KING: Why, Diahann, do you think women resist it?
CARROLL: In my travels around the country speaking to women, the message that I get is primarily, it's fear. And I...
KING: They don't want to know?
CARROLL: Well, they don't want to know. They don't understand what mammogram means. Many of them are afraid of the machinery that's involved. And may I just say while I'm thinking about it here for one second, I've met so many women in their 20s and one young lady whose cancer began when she was 14 that I really would like to be the person that perhaps got the idea that mammograms will not hurt anyone in their 30s. I mean, there's nothing wrong with having a mammogram earlier, and it's the only...
KING: I'm sure all the doctors -- you agree with that?
NORTON: Well, mammograms are good tests for whom they're good for, which is that if you're very young, your breasts are very dense, the mammogram isn't going to show very much. And, therefore, that's the reason why it really kicks in terms of efficacy at 40 or 50, because the breasts are starting to get fattier as you're getting older.
But the good news is there are other tests that are coming along that might be useful even younger.
KING: For younger people.
KING: Is a -- have you had one, Ann?
CURRY: I have, and they're not comfortable. And I know that a lot of women don't want to do them. I mean, a lot of people tell me...
KING: Explain -- what happens?
CURRY: You know, what they do is they put you in front of a machine -- you know, Dr. Norton can tell you better than I, but as one whose gone through them, I mean, they pretty much hurt you because they squish you...
KING: They press the breast?
CURRY: ... to get a good picture. And it's not particularly comfortable. A lot of women don't want to do them just for that reasons alone, but -- and I have to say, you know, I'm one of those people who just doesn't want to go in and get one. But I do because I know that if I do, the chances that it will help me and it's better to save my life and to go through this uncomfortable moment than not.
KING: The fact that your sister has it should cause her greater worry?
NORTON: Well, there is sometimes a familial pattern. It's not everybody. And it's such a common disease, you find it in people that don't have family histories as well.
CURRY: In fact, most of the cases -- is it not true? -- most of the cases of breast cancer...
CARROLL: Do not.
KING: Do not?
CURRY: ... happen in families where there's been no history.
NORTON: It's about 10 percent of breast cancers are clearly familial. All the others just occur sporadically.
CURRY: that was the case in my family, never any history in my family of any kind of cancer before my sister.
KING: When you were a young boy, Rob, and your grandmother had it, that was the time when the word cancer wasn't said out loud, right?
LOWE: Oh, not only was it not said out loud, but -- I got -- I watched what it did to my grandfather. And, you know, men are terrified in their own way of this disease, because, you know, when it happens to someone you love, they have thoughts that they don't even want to take credit for thinking, how is it going to effect my wife's body? What is that going to mean to us? And they just have such shame about even thinking these really honest things that everybody goes through. And I think that, you know, men need to feel OK about voicing those fears with people.
KING: Were your fears aesthetic, Diahann?
CARROLL: You know, Larry, before -- I want you to know that recently a young woman, she raised her hand -- we have Q&A sometimes -- said raised her hand and she said that she'd learned that she had cancer. And she went home and she told her mother in law. And her mother in law said, the most important thing that we must do is protect your husband from this information.
CARROLL: So, it's really -- the most frightening thing is how once you are brave enough to conquer, I am going to have the mammogram, then the entire family has to be brought into the picture with information and to lighten the burden on everyone.
KING: And did you, Diahann, have not just the fear of your health but the fear of how you'd look, how -- what it would do to your appeal?
CARROLL: Yes, Larry. I have to tell you, for almost a day I really was frightened of going public. I thought, how will this affect my entire career? I mean -- and it's a funny thing, because then you realize, well, what's valuable? Is my career only about how I look? I mean, don't I have anything else to offer other than how -- what is it? And at the end of the day, I thought it would be unfair not to speak out, because I felt that there were some women or people, men, who might pay more attention because I was there to say to them, it happened to me. It happened to me. I know you've seen me on the screen and I know you've seen how I've earned my living for the last blah-blah years, and I want you to know that it happened to me and it can happen to anyone. And it's corrective. There was no one in my family. My mother did not have it, my sister does not have it. And I'm this strange person that -- anyway, I'm very happy that we're here also about new information about it, because...
KING: And we're going to get some of that with Dr. Norton about discoveries being made in the field, and also how the oncologist tells the patient. Is there a rule of thumb?
You're watching LARRY KING LIVE, and this edition is devoted to a complete program dealing with breast cancer. And we'll be back right after this.
KING: We're back. All right, Dr. Norton, is there a rule of thumb? You have just looked at a result of a test. How do you tell them?
NORTON: The rule of thumb is to recognize that you're all human, that you've got a human patient, you've got a human doctor, and you're there to accomplish something together. I think...
KING: Always do it in person?
NORTON: Well, I -- of course.
KING: Never on the phone?
NORTON: Of course. And...
KING: But once you say come in, they know.
NORTON: See, there are people that I have very close relationships with, where I can talk to them about very serious matters on the phone just like I would talk to my family or a very close friend. And that's OK as well.
KING: But once an oncologist says come in, you know, right?
NORTON: No, the important concept is that in the doctor-patient relationship, you have two experts. You've got one of them, the doctor's an expert in biology and medicine. The patient's an expert in their own life. They're equal partners, and once you get the concept that you've got equal partners that are talking together, then the rest of it gets very simple.
KING: Those who die, die because?
NORTON: The cancer spreads to a vital organ and grows and destroys a vital organ. You never die of cancer in the breast, it's always the spread of the cancer cells from the breast to the lungs or the liver or the brain or some vital organ.
CURRY: Because it wasn't caught in time. Because, in other words, it's not detected early enough.
KING: All because of detection?
NORTON: Well, the earlier you diagnose the cancer, the greater is the chance that therapy is going to cure it, and that especially if you diagnosis it very young when the cancer's very young. When it's very small, you've got a very high chance that you're going to be able to cure it. Now that's not always. And sometimes the cancer cells can escape even before the first diagnosis. So we don't have a total cure for this disease yet. We have a lot of work to do.
KING: And we know in prostate, it's slow growing and...
NORTON: Breast cancers, too, largely are slow growing that a lot of people say, if it's so slow growing, how come I had a normal breast and then the next morning I had a 3 centimeter tumor -- 3 centimeters is a little bit over an inch in size -- how could that happen? It's because a lot of these tumors don't grow like onions, where one layer on top of the next. They grow like dandelions, with long-spreading tendrils that then fill out. And those long tendrils could be there for many years. The filling out part can happen in a month or two...
KING: But it's not new...
NORTON: ... so that it doesn't necessarily mean it's a fast- growing tumor when all of a sudden you see a 3 centimeter tumor..
KING: It's not new, is it? Breast cancer's been around as long as cancer's been around.
NORTON: Actually, we found breast cancers in mummies, so then...
KING: Why, then, do we hear so much of it the last years?
NORTON: Well, public education partially, that it wasn't...
KING: It was hidden before?
NORTON: It wasn't long ago that we just didn't talk about breasts in public at all, certainly talk about a serious disease. Families had breast cancer. They kept it quiet because they thought it could affect the marriageability of other women in the family.
NORTON: Really. That's a big factor.
CURRY: But also now, there are now things you can do. I mean, this is one of those cancers that you can deal with, fight, because there's a way to detect it early enough to maybe do something about it. There are so many cancers -- there are many cancers where you cannot find out...
KING: That's it, yes.
CURRY: ... you have cancer before it's too late.
NORTON: And things are getting a lot better. When we meet again in 10 years and we talk about breast cancer, we're going to be talking about an entirely different disease.
KING: And it's because of the funds that are raised by people like Rob and others.. NORTON: Because of the funds that are raised and information, exactly, dedicated researchers, people working together.
KING: Diahann, why did you choose the method that you chose to treat it?
CARROLL: Actually, I was -- I also want you to know that I was -- I learned the information on the telephone. And it was a holiday weekend, and it was very late in the day that he received the results. And I insisted, I didn't want to wait, and I learned. And it was a very, very strange experience because I was alone in the house, but totally surreal, I mean, not something you have any preparation for knowing how to identify with that moment. But why did I choose...
KING: Yes, radiation.
CARROLL: I think that the advice of and people that you believe in very much. I had two wonderful doctors, actually three, and their advice was that I undergo the radiation. And there was no talk of chemo. Only after my immune system dropped completely and every skin disease known to man I contracted during, so we had to stop the radiation for a period of time.
But then the consensus of opinion was that to continue the radiation, to its completion, and if I was seen to be, let's say, OK, for lack of another word, that I would not go through the chemo. And so far, thus far, it has not been diagnosed that I should go through the chemo.
KING: Doctor, are there many choices?
NORTON: Many choices. Everybody's individual.
KING: We'll hear that in a minute.
One of our colleagues here at CNN, Moscow bureau chief Jill Dougherty, was recently treated for breast cancer -- she's now back at work in Moscow -- and here's part of a story she filed about living with breast cancer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): In Moscow's chilly weather, I try to keep my head covered and my exercise schedule as normal as possible, just like back in the States.
There are times when it's hard to forget I'm going through treatment. But even this side effect can have its funny moments.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's like, whoo-hoo-hoo, it's growing. It's growing, what it is, good and strong.
DOUGHERTY: At my computer at home or in Moscow, work doesn't have to stop. For me and for thousands of people in my shoes, neither does life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: All right, Ann Curry, we just saw Jill Dougherty. Did your sister go bald?
CURRY: She did. She had hair all the way down past her waist, and it all came out, broke her heart. And I remember searching for a wig for her. We found something for her, and it didn't -- you know, it doesn't always feel comfortable to have a wig on. I mean, it itches and all that stuff. But she dealt with all of that. But, you know, it took her a long time, but her hair is coming back now and it's nice see.
KING: Rob, do you remember your grandmother's treatment or were you too young?
LOWE: No, I remember the first time I saw her in a wig. And again, you know, my grandfather always made her feel so pretty, and particularly when she -- you know, towards the end, when the treatments were really taking their toll on her, he was always so romantic with her. And it was such a great gift that I got to witness that. And I have to admit, I think about it a lot in my own marriage now, that kind of romantic heroism. And there are a lot of guys out there who are really being supporters of women who need it, and they should be commended.
KING: Well said. Is your sister married?
CURRY: She is married, and her 16-year-old daughter wrote me a letter some months after all this and said, you know, if it could only have been me. She wrote this beautiful piece about how her mom was lying in bed and she could hear her moaning from all the treatments because she was in such pain, and how she just so wished she could take that pain away from her. I mean, it affects the entire family.
KING: How was your brother-in-law?
CURRY: He was a hero. I mean, he was a hero.
KING: Doctor, do you talk today to the husband?
NORTON: Of course, yes. The whole family is involved right from the beginning.
KING: Do you still have husbands who, frankly, turn off from it?
NORTON: Yes, yes, yes, we see men leave their sick wives. We do. It's heartbreaking. I've never seen a woman leave a sick husband, though.
KING: That's interesting. NORTON: It's very interesting.
KING: In your whole career in oncology?
NORTON: That's right.
KING: A man diagnosed with cancer did not have a woman walk out.
NORTON: I have never once seen a woman leave a sick man, but I do see men leave sick wives. We do see that.
KING: Dealing with this, you said there are going to be new things in 10 years. Do you think we're going to cure this?
NORTON: Oh, no doubt. There's...
KING: No doubt?
NORTON: Oh, there's absolutely no question about that.
KING: Cure it?
NORTON: Oh, there's no doubt. Well, I think cure or prevent. You know...
KING: Same thing.
NORTON: ... we're rooting toward prevent, but I think they go together, hand in hand. It's just a matter of when. I can't tell you when, but I can sure tell with you with the rapid advances we're making in biology now, I think it is going to be sooner rather than later.
KING: Stem cells, genes?
NORTON: Understanding the genes, yes.
NORTON: Understanding DNA. That's the answer to all problems in biology.
KING: So we will know at birth if someone is going to be prone to get breast cancer we can just make a change?
NORTON: Well that's one part of genetics. One part is understanding what you're predisposed to. The other part is that cancer is a disease of the DNA. The DNA goes awry and sends wrong signals to the cell and tells it to grow too much. So as we understand those signals and we have means of reversing it, that's when we're going to make a differences.
KING: Now what is Tamoxifen?
NORTON: Tamoxifen is a drug that attacks something called the estrogen receptor. KING: Is it widely used now?
NORTON: Oh, very widely used and very effective. And there are better Tamoxifens being developed all the time.
KING: Diahann, did you use one of those drugs?
CARROLL: I'm using a pill called Imista (ph), which is supposedly the equivalent, really, of Tamoxifen. It has slight effects, but I must say I don't really suffer from it. And I do know there are friends of mine who have learned they have cancer again, it has spread to other areas, and there's a new something that I'm very curious about called Herceptin. And I gather -- and my friend, recently I learned that they feel that the Herceptin has worked wonderfully, and it has been arrested, which is -- because it was throughout the body, so I'm very excited about that.
KING: What is that, Doctor?
NORTON: Herceptins the antibody you make outside the body that you can give by injection that attacks something called Her-2 (ph) that's found in about a third of cancer cells. And it is rather effective, especially effective when you combine it with drugs like Taxil, for example, that attacks the cell division.
KING: The side effects terrific or...
NORTON: No, the side effects of Herceptin are really very modest. It's a very well tolerated drug because it only attacks an abnormality found in a cancer cell.
KING: Would you guess that there are tons of people, maybe, watching this show who have it and don't know it?
NORTON: Oh, of course.
KING: No doubt about it?
NORTON: Oh, no question with it.
CURRY: What, 182,000 cases diagnosed every year?
KING: Diagnosed, hoe many are not diagnosed?
NORTON: Yes, well there are people who are going to be diagnosed tomorrow and people who are going to be diagnosed next week...
KING: How many never?
NORTON: ... these cancers don't pop up overnight. My own calculations say the average time is about two and a half to three years, that on the average that you have it in your body before you're diagnosed.
KING: We'll be right back. We'll reintroduce our panel and more on this topic. The big thing is get the exam. Don't go away.
KING: We're back on LARRY KING LIVE. Our subject tonight is breast cancer, and our guests are the famed singer and actress and wonderful talent and forever young Diahann Carroll. She's testimony to having breast cancer, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to get it.
Also in L.A. is Rob Lowe, the co-star of one of the most successful shows in television history, NBC's "The West Wing." His grandmother had breast cancer and he's spokesman for Lee National Denim Day. That comes up in October, fund raising. Biggest individual fund-raising day in the fight against breast cancer in this country.
Ann Curry, the news anchor on NBC's "Today." She's angling for Katie's job. We'll see how it works out.
Little joke we have.
CURRY: I love Katie.
KING: I know that.
CURRY: I'm angling for Tom Brokaw's job.
KING: All the others said that. OK, never mind. Her sister is a -- just having fun -- her sister is a breast cancer survivor.
And one of the best-known names in the field of fighting this, dr. Larry Norton, director of the Evelyn Lauder Breast Cancer Center at Memorial Sloan-Kettering here in New York. He is president of the board of directors of the Association of Breast Cancer Organizations.
Can people do anything to maybe prevent it? Can you do things nutritionally, exercise, something that could help stave it off?
NORTON: Well, the one thing that we know for sure is that people who are predisposed to getting breast cancer, if they take drugs like Tamoxifen, have a lower incidence of breast cancer. There actually is a drug that can work for some people.
We're still studying this, and right now the drug that was mentioned, Evista, is being compared to Tamoxifen to find out which is the better drug as a prevention strategy.
NORTON: As a prevention strategy.
KING: You mean...
NORTON: Prevention, right.
KING: You give it to people who have not been diagnosed with breast cancer?
NORTON: Exactly, people at very high risk that can take drugs and...
KING: Is Ann one of those people because her sister had it?
NORTON: Well, we would have to talk to Ann. I mean, it has to be individualized. We'd have to find out more...
KING: But you might give it to her?
NORTON: Tamoxifen can be given, yes, for largely older people. It can be given...
CURRY: What about nondrug, though, prevention?
CURRY: For example, diet.
NORTON: Well, we don't know all the factors yet. It's actually interesting, is that the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, which is affiliated with the Lauder Center, is going to have a symposium in October that we're going to bring in some of the world's experts in nutrition to actually discuss this particular issue.
There are some smoking guns that are fascinating, because countries, societies that eat certain diets have a dramatically lower incidence of breast cancer.
CURRY: And those diets tend to be Lower in fat and lower in calories.
NORTON: They're what we call plant-based diets: Thailand, Japan, China, where they're eating mostly grains and they're eating vegetables, and they're eating very...
CURRY: Less animal fat.
NORTON: Very little animal fat, for example. They have a dramatically lower incidence.
KING: Diahann, did you change any habits since being diagnosed?
CARROLL: Dietary habits practically no, because I've always lived on this very, you know, very disciplined business in which we operate. So it was primarily fish and vegetables and chicken and salads and that sort of thing all of my life.
But I think the only thing that I've really sort of increased my program here is eating soy, and I hear that it's to my advantage and then there are others who disagree that it's not really. But I do have -- I think it's called Edinomai (ph). I'm not certain...
CURRY: Edimonai. It's Japanese.
LOWE: You bet.
CARROLL: Right. And it's wonderful, wonderful stuff, and I blend it with Bok Choy and have a lovely vegetable dinner, and I do that as often as possible. I don't know of anything else that I've heard everyone agrees upon.
There are so many different camps of don't do this, don't do that.
KING: Yes, doctor, do we have a rule? Is soy good, doctor?
NORTON: In parts of Asia where the breast cancer incidence is low they do eat a lot of soy products. However, there are other parts of Asia where they don't eat a lot of soy and the breast cancer incidence is also low.
What I recommend to people is if they want to use the Asian cuisine. That's very reasonable. But what I'm worried about is there are some people eating enormous amounts of soy: pounds of tofu, for example.
KING: And that can be dangerous?
NORTON: And we have no idea what the biological effects our. You know, just because a little water is good for you, you know, doesn't mean you can't drown.
KING: Do we -- do we know why cancer spreads? Cancer is a civil war in the body, right? It's your body going to war with itself.
NORTON: Basically, it's that all of the cells in your body know where they belong. Your liver cells belong in your liver, and your lung cells belong in your lung, and they have instructions to tell them where -- where they should be. And those instructions are in the DNA.
What happens in cancer is one of the things that goes wrong is that the cell gets an instruction that says it's OK for me to grow somewhere else. So a breast cell normally will only grow in a breast. If I took a normal amount of breast tissue out and I put it in a woman's arm, it would not grow in that arm. It would die. But a breast cancer cell could grow in the arm because it's lost the capacity to die when it's in a foreign environment.
KING: And what we don't know is why.
NORTON: Well, we're learning a lot. We're learning a surprising amount. And the answer is in studying the abnormalities in the genes of these cancer cells. Now, we're developing techniques for really studying not just one or two genes, but 50,000 genes at a time. And that's where we are getting real answers.
KING: Rob, do any male friends say to you why are you involved in this, this is a woman's disease, why don't you get into something that just mostly involves men? LOWE: No. In fact, what I've had is people completely unexpectedly come up to me and say, I think it's great, you know, my sister is affected or my mother, or you know, my wife. And it's been -- it's been a very sort of humbling experience and really a nice way to honor my grandmother as well.
KING: Sure is.
I'm going to ask Ann when we come back recommendations for the family member with dealing with it on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be right back.
KING: Ann Curry, any tips on the husband, the sister, the mother, the child?
CURRY: Well, especially for the children I think that to not hide things from them to a degree -- I mean, clearly you have to...
KING: Talk about it?
CURRY: I think, depending on the age of the child, maybe not so much cry in front of them but at least keep them informed and not make them feel you're keeping them out of something that is so important to them. I think that was a slight risk for my sister, but she did keep them informed at some point.
For the husband I think, very important -- it would be very helpful for the husband to really talk about his feelings with his wife, to really feel, as we heard from Rob, that he can express to his wife, you know, that I love you and that you are so wonderful and so beautiful.
KING: But he has some sort of a dilemma, doesn't he?
CURRY: He does have a dilemma.
KING: For example, let's say it's the first stage. She tells him, "I have breast cancer," and they go bed that night. Is she going to think if he wants to make love that he's doing because he feels sorry?
CURRY: Of course, she is. Of course, she is.
KING: So what does he do?
CURRY: But this is an opportunity for the man and the wife to come to a closer place, isn't it? Because you need to travel that distance of why are you making love to me, you know, and having those thoughts and sharing those ideas.
I think -- I'm just so touched by what Rob said about his grandfather and what he did for his grandmother. I can only simply say also, though, as a sister that in terms of family members, you know, when you have somebody you love diagnosed with breast cancer, they need an advocate. They need somebody in there who is going to make sure they're getting the best medical care, because not all medical care is the same.
KING: They need -- you're saying get a second opinion.
CURRY: They need, they need. And you need to step up to the plate, because when you are diagnosed you are so, for lack of a better word, "blown away" and really numb, like someone hit you with a Mack truck. You need somebody to say, OK, I'm going to pick you up now and walk you across the street, I'm going to make sure that you get to the right doctor. You can't necessarily choose, though.
NORTON: Ann's saying something very important, because one of the things we've found in formal scientific studies is that one of the most important prognostic factors in breast cancer is what we call social integration: having family, having friends, having people you can talk with.
KING: You mean that helps?
NORTON: It's one of the most important factors.
KING: It's medicinal?
NORTON: It has direct biological effects.
KING: Do you know how...
NORTON: People do better and live longer when they're connected to other people.
KING: Do they live better, longer, too, if they have prayer, if they have spiritual...
NORTON: I'm religious myself, and I think personally that's a very important part of a rounded life.
KING: Diahann, did you cry when you learned, and is that good?
CARROLL: I'm not good with crying, but I did eventually cry. My immediate reaction was anger. I was very angry. And also, talking about the family, it was very difficult for me to say to my mother, who was quite ill -- eventually I felt she had to know -- that I had cancer. And until the day she died, which is only recently, she denied totally that I had cancer. She kept saying to me, stop saying that, you know, you don't have cancer, Diahann. It was a bit much for her to deal with her own illness and the thought that her fears of cancer were that I might leave here before -- before she left. And that -- she really could not handle that. So we just stopped talking about it eventually.
KING: Rob, does it cause you to worry about women in your life? Sisters, aunts, mother, wife?
LOWE: Oh, I've been all over my wife. It's my turn to nag now.
KING: Oh, really? You stay on it?
LOWE: Yes, absolutely. I think that, you know, when men come to their loved ones and say, have you been checked, I think women are so taken aback by it that it maybe registers in a way that it might not if it's coming from a girlfriend.
CURRY: Yes, it does. It definitely does.
KING: Doctor, is it frustrating, your job?
NORTON: It's exciting. I mean, you have an opportunity to help enormous numbers of people. Remember, I do research also. So it's not just the individuals that I have an opportunity to help, but it's also the work that we can do to cure thousands and tens of thousands of...
KING: But an oncologist maybe more than any specialty deals with death every day, more than -- I mean, every doctor deals with death, but an oncologist deals with it daily.
NORTON: But cancer would not go away if I stopped working in the field. I'd still know it was there. I mean, I can't just turn my back on cancer and ignore it, and say that if I'm not working, it doesn't exist. I still know it's there. I feel better that I'm in the battle fighting it. I mean, that's what give me encouragement.
KING: Do you feel -- do you treat it like an enemy?
NORTON: It's an enemy of all of us, yes. Disease is one of the biggest enemies, and I think that what we have to remember is like any war we've got to be in this together. We've got to collectively fight the enemy.
KING: Michael Milken, who's led a strong fight in the prostate area, said on this program, if cancer were an enemy, an army enemy, do you know how much we'd triple the Defense Department budget to fight it? Why don't we spend more on it, Ann?
CURRY: It is one of my enemies. I hate cancer.
KING: But why don't we...
CURRY: I think -- part of the reason I think is that maybe there's a degree of fighting between, you know, people who...
KING: Heart wants this...
CURRY: Right, right, right. You know, and we're fighting for the same pool of money, and maybe that's one of the reasons. I don't know. What do you think, doctor?
NORTON: I don't know the reasons, but I think you're right. I think that if cancer just appeared on our shores as a foreigner attacking...
KING: We'll hear it discussed in the presidential campaign, cancer?
NORTON: Sure. And...
KING: Have you heard it discussed?
NORTON: Not yet.
KING: We'll be back with more of our panel. We'll also get the date again and that phone number. I think it's 1-800-521-5533 if your company wants to get involved in this Lee National Denim Day, for which Rob Lowe is the spokesman. We'll be right back.
KING: Rob, before I ask a question for the doctor, that Lee National Denim Day, you want companies to call that number or individuals?
LOWE: Well, you know, companies are great, but also, if you have, say, a softball team that you're on or just any organization that you're involved with, any group at all...
KING: You pledge $5 a piece?
LOWE: Yes, $5 a piece, and all the money goes directly to the Susan B. Coleman Foundation, which is sort of the leading fund-raiser for awareness...
KING: And what's the date that everyone wears jeans?
LOWE: October 6.
KING: October 6. The number is 1-800-521-5533.
Doctor, you know that foundation, right?
NORTON: Yes. The Coleman Foundation is wonderful.
CURRY: Wonderful organization.
KING: You said something during the break that in this political realm everyone is talking about cutting costs in medicine. No one is talking about making it better.
NORTON: That's -- I think that's another very important topic. I think that Americans have to know that we are on the verge of an advance in medicine that never has occurred before in history. I mean, this is a time to really push harder. We need more funds, better organized funds.
KING: We've got enormous surpluses.
NORTON: That this is -- this is an extraordinary period of history. We've never had anything like this before.
The analogy I use is we've been studying music for years and not ever realizing that it comes from musicians who are playing notes on a page. Now, we know what those notes are for biology. It's the DNA. We can actually read the instructions for the DNA. It's an extraordinary opportunity for us to change those notes and change the music, say this is a wrong note, it causes cancer, let's change it, and let's not have cancer.
CURRY: Is that relationship what we've been hearing lately just in the last recent weeks...
CURRY: No. All this stuff about vaccines.
CURRY: A possibility in years down the line that they actually have enough information to be able to say they might be able...
KING: You will have a vaccine -- you will inoculate someone against cancer?
CURRY: ... to come up with a vaccine.
NORTON: Actually, at Memorial Sloan-Kettering we have worked on a vaccine that we are -- we've been working on it for years. Some of our patients have had components. We're going to put it all together, we hope by the end of the year, and next year we expect to have a very large national trial of what could be a very effective anti-breast cancer vaccine.
KING: Diahann, do you fear a recurrence?
CARROLL: Always. I would lie to you if I didn't say that. I mean, cancer-free is the terminology that they use when they say to you that you're probably cured, and there's no reason for you to worry about it. But unfortunately, I don't believe that. I think I've been very, very lucky, and I try to live a healthy life, and I'm hoping that that will work in my favor.
I was always the person that worried about my diet and worried about my exercise. So I think we can rule that out. I think that we don't know -- we do know a couple of things that are very frightening, though, Larry. One is that this is a huge industry, and that really makes me very uncomfortable, that it is a huge industry.
KING: What do you mean? You mean the cancer industry?
CARROLL: It's a money -- yes, the cancer industry. But I do know that there are so many millions of people who are devoted to research.
KING: How do you mean the cancer industry?
CARROLL: Well, there's, for example, the young man that operated the machine on which I was treated, I said to him one day, "What would you do if there was a cure for cancer next week?" And he said, "I think perhaps maybe I might have to go back to school to learn something else to do." The upheaval, I think, or the...
KING: Oh, yeah, there would be an economic upheaval if you...
CARROLL: Yes. Yes. Yes.
KING: No, you don't think
CARROLL: I think if it had happened slowly -- sorry.
KING: I'm sorry, go ahead, Diahann.
CARROLL: I said, I think -- I think if it happens slowly and we all have the opportunity to adjust and redefine what we want to do with our lives -- those who are really connected to cancer itself -- then I think we can be -- probably we'll be all right.
But if it happened quickly -- and I think there would be many people who would be affected. And we would have to think about that very seriously.
KING: Was your sister angry, Ann?
CURRY: Oh, she was angry. She was mostly afraid, though. And I think -- and really wanting to do anything to make herself better, make herself take some control. She felt like it was all happening within her. And imagine this. They are telling you that there's something inside your body that you know -- in your breast that's growing. And it's going to kill you until they get it out.
I mean, the -- it was just unbelievable for her. And I think that -- but mostly it was fear.
KING: And every person -- every person reacts differently. Joe Torre told me when he was told, his first thought was: "Get it out! Take it out!"
CARROLL: Yes. Yes.
KING: We will be -- let me take a break. And we will be back with our remaining moments. Time goes so fast. We will repeat that number for you as well for Rob Lowe's group, and have the doctor give us some tips as to what every woman watching should -- every man too -- but every -- certainly every woman should do.
We will be right back.
KING: We are back with our remaining moments.
Diahann, by the way, what's up with you, show-business wise? What are you doing?
CARROLL: Oh, I'm having a wonderful time, thank God. Everyone is responding very positively. I'm doing one-nighters. I'm doing these symphonies, and doing speeches around the country, which still allows me to meet people. I've done it for 40-some-odd years. So it's a nice thing to be able to do. I have a merchandising line. You know that. And I'm a busy lady. I'm enjoying my life very much.
KING: And that's important to you, right?
CARROLL: I don't know how to be unbusy, Larry. I -- I mean, maybe I'm paying the price for that. But unbusy is something that frightens me. I...
KING: Rob, most -- most television stars want to be movie stars. You were a movie star who became a big television star.
LOWE: It's a crazy world.
KING: Are you shocked -- are you shocked by the "West Wing's" success?
LOWE: I am little surprised. I thought it would -- I knew it would be good, because Aaron Sorkin is such a wonderful writer. But I didn't know that people would respond to it in the way that they have. I think the show is wish-fulfillment for people.
KING: Yeah. You would like it to be that way.
LOWE: We certainly would, wouldn't we? Yeah.
KING: Ann, what job do you want?
KING: Everybody at the "Today" show wants another job. That's a joke.
CURRY: Well, that is -- well, the truth is that it's such a great job that I -- the one I have right now is great.
KING: Not bad.
CURRY: I get to deal with the news everyday. I get to work on "Dateline" correspondent work. I get to sometimes fill in for Tom, the big guy. I sometimes get to fill for Katie and for Matt. I mean, you know, it's a great job. I love the
KING: So if it stayed like this for your career, you would be fine?
CURRY: Happy. Happy.
KING: Now, Doctor, what are your goals?
NORTON: Cure cancer.
KING: You want to be here when it's done.
NORTON: I am doing -- I am doing exactly what I want to do. I want cure cancer.
KING: And what should people watching do? Wonder what's a tip -- let's say you're a woman -- let's -- one right in the category. You're a 45-year-old woman.
NORTON: Right. Well, I mean, we know that people should get mammograms. And I think at 45...
KING: Once a year.
NORTON: ... you should be getting mammograms once a year. And at 45 -- at 50, you should start doing colonoscopies -- which is another major thing people have to start doing.
KING: How often?
NORTON: Well, the only -- if you have a normal one, you only have to do it every five year. If you have an abnormal one, you have to listen to your doctor. That's very important. I think people should stay slim. I think they should exercise. I think they should eat diets that mostly that are mostly plant-based diets, mostly vegetable diets. I think that's -- that's very important.
They stay should stay informed. They should replace fear with hope and knowledge, which I think is really critical.
KING: There's an educational program at Sloan, isn't there?
NORTON: Oh, yes, yes. Yeah, we...
KING: People come just to learn.
NORTON: We have lectures all the time, something called Post- Treatment Resource Center. And we have lectures all the time. And October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so there will be a lot of lectures around people can come to at the 92nd Street Y, for example -- the Breast Cancer Research Foundation Symposium.
But there's a piece of Zen wisdom here that I always want to impart, which is: If anybody -- if anybody tells you to do something, including myself -- you know: eat this kind of food or do this -- you always ask the question: How do you know? What's the source of your information? Why are you giving me this advice?
And you have to listen very careful to the why they're giving you the advice -- and not just the advice. And that will keep you out a lot of trouble.
KING: Not just my uncle heard from a friend that this...
NORTON: Well, if somebody says -- somebody says that, you know how valuable the advice is. But if they, you know, careful scientific research has shown this, it's been studied, you know, carefully then that's -- that's -- that's important information. If it's something that...
KING: But doctors learn all the time, too?
NORTON: If I just have a feeling -- if they just say, "I just have a feeling," or somebody, you know -- or "My friend told me," then you should evaluate the information that way. But a lot of people are following advice and not asking the question: Why are you giving advice, how do you know?
KING: Thank you all very much. Let me repeat that number, Rob. It's 800-521-5533 for information on Lee National Denim Day 2000, fund raising for fight against breast cancer. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
So we're -- our timing is excellent. We thank Diahann Carroll, Rob Lowe, Ann Curry and Dr. Norton for being here and for helping you.
We also want to take this moment to tell you that our thoughts are with Claire McCray (ph). She's executive produce of CNN's "INSIDE POLITICS." She is just beginning treatment for breast cancer. She has the wishes and best wishes for all of us for a speedy recovery.
Thanks for joining us and good night.
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