Joan Lunden's Cancer Treatment: Why She Chose Chemotherapy Before Surgery

The former Good Morning America host says her decision was the 'obvious choice'

Photo: Ruven Afanador

When Joan Lunden was diagnosed with stage 2 triple negative breast cancer on June 9, the former Good Morning America host had to quickly choose a treatment plan. But after getting drastically different opinions, Lunden was left feeling overwhelmed.

“It comes really fast and furious,” says the mom of seven (and grandma of one!), who appears on the latest cover of PEOPLE. “You go from one institution to another, and they all have a different idea of how you should treat it.”

While Lunden consulted several top docs, after meeting with New York University’s Dr. Ruth Oratz, her decision became clear.

The pathway that she embarked on called for chemotherapy first, not the typical mastectomy or lumpectomy, with the goal of shrinking her two tumors so surgery could be minimal. Because her tumors were located near the back of her breast, had Lunden opted for surgery first, she would have been left with two very different-looking breasts and would have required extensive reconstructive surgery.

“My doctor said, ‘We can do a really big breast cancer surgery right now, or we can flood you, bomb you, with cancer-killing chemo, and then do a very tiny surgery,’ ” she says.

Despite some recent high profile stories of celebrities opting for mastectomies first and foremost, often avoiding chemotherapy, Dr. Vered Stearns, co-director of the Breast Cancer Program at Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, says, “Giving chemotherapy first may help to shrink the size of a tumor, making surgery easier and allowing for breast conservation.”

Lunden has been sharing her cancer journey on her blog,, and documented her lumpectomy on Tuesday. “Still groggy, but happy to hear that my lumpectomy went well,” she shared after her surgery.

For much more on her battle with cancer, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

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