Jane Doyle’s Cancer Fight
3 December 2017
Channel 7 newsreader Jane Doyle has revealed her diagnosis of breast cancer - and says early detection saved her life.
In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Mail, Doyle, 59, says a routine screen swiftly led to surgery and radiotherapy. The beloved newsreader has remained a stoic presence on TV screens in recent weeks despite having treatment every morning before work.
Doyle has shared her story in the hope of raising awareness about BreastScreen SA's free service and has implored women aged over 50 to get regular checks.
"People think you need to have a lump before you do something, but I had zero symptoms," she said.
Jane Doyle has a list of banned words - "journey and battle, you're not allowed to use them". In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Mail, the much-loved Channel 7 newsreader has revealed a recent diagnosis of breast cancer, but credits early detection with saving her life.
Now she hopes that sharing her own experience will encourage South Australian women over 50 to get regular screenings. "Every woman in SA gets a letter from BreastScreen SA when they're over 50 saying 'You're now eligible for a free breast scan'," Doyle said.
"I got my letter in August and like a lot of women, l just said 'Oh, I'll get to that' and, like a lot of women, I hadn't got to it. l hadn't made the appointment"
It was only by chance that Doyle followed up on the letter, almost five weeks after it arrived in the post. "I was in the city, I had time to kill and thought I would go do some shopping but there is one of the BreastScreen clinics at the bottom of David Jones, so I thought rather than go and spend money, I'll pop in and see if they could fit me in anyway," she said.
"I went in and said 'Look, I'm sorry, I've got my letter it's at home, but I don't have an appointment - is there anything you can do today?' They told me to come back in 15 minutes and they would squeeze me in. "I didn't think another thing about it because I've done about five of them now. I actually forgot about it and then l got a phone call saying there was an anomaly." That anomaly meant Doyle was needed to go back for a more intensive scan.
"I am embarrassed to say, but, again like a lot of women, my initial reaction was 'Oh really?
Do I have to? You've called me back once before and it was nothing'," she said.
"As I was about to say 'Look, I'm really busy at the moment', I thought to myself, 'Here is a free service that's being offered to you, they're ringing you to say there may be a problem and you're trying to talk yourself out of it? Are you really that busy?"
The subsequent tests revealed the news. Doyle was diagnosed with an early form of breast cancer known as a ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). "It was a surprise and then having to come home and tell
(husband) Ian was hard. He was standing out the back and said 'So, all good then?' And I had to say 'Not quite," she said. "There was no lump which is an important message. People think you need to have a lump before you do something, but I had zero symptoms. Neither my GP nor the breast surgeon could feel anything. I exercise and look after my diet, I was feeling fit and well and planning to go on holidays, and suddenly it turns into a cancer diagnosis."
The timing couldn't have been worse for the Doyle family. The weekend before she received her own cancer diagnosis, Doyle read the eulogy at the funeral of her 35-year-old nephew who had passed away just a fortnight after he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of bowel cancer.
"I knew something was wrong, but I wasn't about to tell my sister-in-law when their 35-year-old •son has died within a fortnight from the most radically aggressive form of cancer," Doyle said. "There was a young man, at 35, who was diagnosed a fortnight before he died with a rare one in-8000 form of cancer that attacked him completely in a very short time. That does put my situation into a lot of perspective."
Revealing the news to her 22-year-old son Henry was also a challenge for the television star.
"It was tough telling him," she said. "I didn't tell him that I had breast cancer until l knew exactly what the prognosis was and exactly what I was looking at in terms of treatment. He's been great about it and very supportive and loving as he always is." Doyle had a partial mastectomy on October 11 and started radiotherapy shortly after meaning that every day for the past three weeks she's been having treatment in the morning, then showing up for work and reading the news in the afternoon. Most of the Seven newsroom was unaware that their anchor was being treated for cancer.
"The treatment doesn't hurt, but you do get tired. It's cumulative so the first week, I didn't feel anything, but I am feeling it more now as I get to the end of the treatment," she said.
"I've had one day off where I just felt really flat. But it's been important for me to just keep my routine as normal as possible. I've had wonderful support from Graham Archer, the news director, and from everyone at Seven who has known. I kept it confidential just because I wanted to see how l was going to cope."
Doyle's experience is consistent with that of a lot of SA women. Statistics show that one in 10 SA women will be diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 75 and nine out of 10 women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease.
Doyle hopes that by sharing her story, more women will be vigilant in using the free BreastScreen SA services. "Only 60 per cent of women eligible for the screening take it up, which means there are 40 per cent of women out there who aren't using this service which is completely free," she said.
"I have had one really good friend tell me that she's a year overdue for her scan, and when I asked her why she said 'Well, the last time I got called back and I got so anxious and upset in advance of that'. "Of course, when I asked her what happened next, she told me that it was all clear, but she got herself into such a state that she was too afraid to go back to the next one.
"I said to her 'Don't you think about what might happen if you put it off too long, and then the next time you do have the courage to go, they say you have stage three invasive breast cancer and you're facing a double-mastectomy and chemotherapy?'"
For SA women aged 50 to 69, breast screening every two years has been found to reduce the chance of dying from the disease by up to 40 per cent. A breast screen can detect most breast cancers, including those too small to be felt and can take as little as 10 minutes.
"What I am trying to say to SA women is ... you hear a lot of negatives about the public health system, people complain about the changes and services shifting - I understand that. But what if you don't go and you have something like I had, which is undetectable by any other means, and you wait because you are too lazy or frightened," Doyle said. "It takes a maximum of an hour, if you're in the city. They have locations all around the state, they have mobile clinics.
"Women really need to put themselves first when it comes to this and take advantage of this free, world-class, service. You don't have to pay a thing, there's no gap. It is such a brilliant service that I don't think women are taking enough advantage of."
Doyle will have her final round of radiotherapy treatment tomorrow and then will have yearly mammograms instead of every two years. She's now looking forward to celebrating the future, which includes Seven News celebrating its 17th straight year at No. I. In January, Doyle has a trip planned to Uganda, where she will go trekking for a week with son Henry, and in February she will turn 60 – and is already planning the party. ''I'm very lucky with my cancer experience. It hasn't threatened my life - it's potentially saved my life," she said.