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June 4, 2024
Ep -
17

Olivia Munn's Breast Cancer and the Test that Saved Her Life

In this episode, actress, activist, and author Olivia Munn gives a heart-wrenching account of her experience undergoing a double mastectomy for breast cancer just one year after giving birth to her son, whom she shares with partner John Mulaney. In 2023, Olivia Munn started the year with a routine mammogram and genetic testing for 90 cancer genes. Despite negative results, Dr. Aliabadi, who delivered Olivia’s baby, calculated Olivia’s lifetime risk of breast cancer to be high and encouraged additional testing. This further assessment ultimately saved Olivia’s life. Two months after her negative mammogram, Olivia was diagnosed with luminal B, an aggressive form of cancer in both breasts. Dr. Aliabadi, who similarly had a double mastectomy and breast cancer that was initially missed, explains how Olivia’s cancer alluded initial testing. The conversation turns to Olivia’s determination to live for her young child, the aftermath of being extremely candid about her cancer battle online, and the armor needed to face the unimaginable.

About the Guest

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Olivia Munn is an actor, author, activist and mom. She was most recently seen starring in Violet, a critically acclaimed indie drama written and directed by Justine Bateman. She also starred in Netflix romantic comedy Love, Wedding, Repeat and crime thriller The Gateway. Her recent voiceover roles include Marvel’s Hit-Monkey, Netflix’s America: The Motion Picture, and short film Save Ralph. Olivia was recently honored by the United Nation’s Girl Hero Awards for her activism.

In 2019, Munn starred in STARZ series The Rook, a supernatural spy thriller set in London and in 20th Century Fox’s The Predator opposite Keegan-Michael Key and Sterling K. Brown. In 2018, Munn appeared in the critically acclaimed second season of HISTORY series SIX, where she played “Gina,” a ruthless and smart CIA operative. In 2017, she voiced the role of “Koko” in The LEGO Ninjago Movie. She also starred in Office Christmas Party alongside Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston, in X-Men: Apocalypse as “Psylocke”, and in Universal's Ride Along 2 with Kevin Hart and Ice Cube. From 2012 – 2014, Munn starred as Sloan Sabbith on Aaron Sorkin’s hit HBO political drama The Newsroom, which followed behind-the-scenes events of the fictional Atlantis Cable News (ACN) channel.

Dr. A’s Breast Cancer Takeaways

  1. Know your lifetime risk of breast cancer. Use our lifetime risk calculator to assess your risk.
  2. If your lifetime for breast cancer risk is average (around 12.5%) start yearly breast imaging with mammograms at age 40.  Dense breast tissue can make abnormal findings hard to see on a mammogram. If you have dense breasts, ask your doctor to order a bilateral breast screening ultrasound.
  3. If you fall into the intermediate category (15-20%), start imaging at age 40 with a mammogram. Add a breast ultrasound if you have dense breasts, and add a bilateral breast MRI every few years just to be safe.
  4. If you fall into the high-risk category (20% or more), start breast imaging as early as 30. You can alternate mammograms and ultrasounds every six months with a breast MRI.
  5. If you have a family history of breast cancer, get a genetic cancer test. Women with certain gene mutations like the  gene change have a greatly increased risk of breast cancer, as well as an increased risk of ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, and possibly some other cancers. These tests are almost always covered by insurance.