NEW YORK (AFP) - The television chef girlfriend of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday became the latest American celebrity to announce she will undergo a double mastectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer.
Sandra Lee, 48, revealed her diagnosis in a tearful television interview that aired on ABC's flagship Good Morning America show in which she urged women to get screenings as early as their 20s and 30s.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists currently recommends that women get one mammogram a year starting at age 40. Other groups recommend the procedure only after the age of 50.
Doctors caught the cancer early and she had opted for a double mastectomy after undergoing a lumpectomy, Lee told ABC.
"Both the radiologist and the doctor said, 'You're a ticking time bomb.' And they both said, 'You need - I would just get them both done,'" Lee said of her decision to undergo the invasive operation.
Lee said boyfriend Cuomo was the second person she rang with her diagnosis - after her sister. He had been "extremely supportive" and would be in the operating room with her, she said.
Cuomo released a statement Tuesday saying he was "devastated" by Lee's diagnosis and that he would be taking "some personal time" to support his girlfriend through the operation and her recovery.
Lee said she was speaking publicly about her diagnosis because she wants women in their 20s and 30s to be screened for cancer.
"If it saves one person, and makes one more person go get a mammogram, and if they're sitting down right now watching this, don't watch this TV.
"Go pick your phone up, and call your doctor and get your rear end in there and get a mammogram right now," she told ABC.
It is becoming increasingly common for American celebrities to speak out about personal battles with breast cancer and mastectomies.
Hollywood star Angelina Jolie has been one of the most high profile symbols in the battle against cancer, announcing in The New York Times two years apart that she had undergone surgery to prevent ovarian and breast cancer.
Jolie wrote in the newspaper in March that she had her reproductive organs removed after blood tests revealed what could be markers for an early stage of cancer.
Two years previously she publicized her double mastectomy. Both surgeries sparked public discussion about the pros and cons of the procedures as a preventative measure - before cancer was diagnosed.
Last month, Rita Wilson, the 58-year-old actress wife of Hollywood star Tom Hanks, revealed she had also undergone a double mastectomy after being diagnosed with cancer.