After Breast Cancer, Christina Applegate Gave Birth To A Beautiful Daughter — And Then She Had Her Ovaries Removed
Actress Christina Applegate has been really open publicly about her cancer battle. She was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer in 2008, and underwent a double mastectomy — a surgery where both breasts are removed. After the diagnosis, the Anchorman actress found out she also carried a genetic mutation called a BRCA1 mutation, which significantly increases a woman’s chance of developing both breast and ovarian cancer. Because of that risk, Applegate decided years later to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed as well. However, in the years between her breast cancer diagnosis and her decision to remove her ovaries, Applegate gave birth to her daughter, Sadie, in 2011.
When young women are diagnosed with cancer, the question of whether they’ll be able to have children in the future often comes up. Even for women with no plans to conceive anytime soon, the prospect of preserving fertility should still be discussed with a doctor. In Applegate’s case, the cancer was found during an imaging test called a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan — and was discovered early enough to be treated with surgery. Breast MRIs are not the usual screening test recommended for women, but Applegate, 47, has a family history of the disease (her mother was diagnosed when the actress was just 7 years old), so she and her medical team were being cautious.
Because the cancer was detected early, and Applegate was declared cancer-free shortly after she underwent the mastectomy, she and her husband, musician Martyn LeNoble, were able to conceive a few years after the actress’ treatment. Although many women are able to conceive naturally after breast cancer treatment, others can run into trouble. The risk revolves around what kind of breast cancer the woman had, and what type of therapy was utilized.
Fertility Preservation For Young Women With Cancer
In a previous interview with SurvivorNet, Dr. Jaime Knopman, Director of Fertility Preservation at CCRM NY, explained that there are several fertility preservation options for young women dealing with cancer, and doctors have become more adamant in recent years about women who being treated with chemotherapy considering an option such as egg freezing.
“It used to be that if somebody was getting a low-dose chemotherapy or one that wasn’t that toxic, we’d let is slide in terms of fertility more,” Dr. Knopman said. “Now we are more aggressive with freezing for those patients, because the reality is, you may unfortunately have a recurrence. If you have a recurrence, you may need more aggressive treatment, and then at that point you may not have to time to freeze. So, we talk about this with everybody.”
Applegate’s History With Cancer
Applegate’s daughter was born three years after the actress underwent surgery for breast cancer, and six years before she decided to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed. Since the BRCA1 mutation is inherited from parents, there is a chance that Sadie will carry it as well. And Applegate has spoken openly about how they handle that possibility at home.
In a 2017 interview with Today, Applegate said she urges all women like her, who carry a BRCA mutation, to be really aware of their bodies — and that includes what goes into their bodies.
“The first thing is to be really diligent about what you’re putting into your body, as far as what kind of food you’re eating,” the actress said. “Organic is expensive. I get that. I don’t want to alienate anyone who can’t pay for that. But maybe skip your morning latte and get organic vegetables for the week. Try to stay away from the foods that are filled with chemicals.”
Applegate continued to say that in her household, they’re very diligent about how they eat. She and Sadie are both vegetarians, they grow their own vegetables, and try to keep stress levels down — even knowing that Sadie may have an increased cancer risk.
“The chances that my daughter is BRCA positive are very high. I look at her and feed her the cleanest foods. I try to keep her stress levels down. I’m doing everything I can on my end knowing that in 20 years, she’ll have to start getting tested,” the actress said. “Hopefully by then there will be advancements. It breaks my heart to think that’s a possibility.”
Even with that knowledge, Applegate said that the family is doing well now. Recently, the actress even used her experience with cancer as motivation for her role in the 2019 Netflix series Dead To Me. She plays the role of Jen Harding — a character who is dealing with the loss of her husband as well as the loss of her breasts (the character was also a BRCA mutation carrier, and also underwent a double mastectomy). In previous interviews, Applegate has called playing the character “cathartic.” She also nabbed an Emmy nomination for the role.