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How Harry Connick Jr. saved lives by sharing his family's personal cancer story

In 2017 Harry Connick Jr. revealed that his wife, Jill Goodacre, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, bravely and honestly opening up about her five-year struggle on his daytime talk show “Harry.” People clearly listened, because less than six months later the star has confessed that sharing their story has saved lives.

“After we talked about it on my show, it’s a really humbling feeling to know that people will write in and say, ‘I had a sonogram the next day after we saw it on your show, we found a tumor, and it saved my life,’” the 50-year-old told People Now. “Personally, hundreds of people would tell me that, but online [the reaction] was incredible. It was really humbling, and it drives home how important it is [to share their story].”

Goodacre was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2012. An annual routine mammogram came back clear, but it was during her sonogram that something was detected, and a subsequent biopsy revealed she had Stage 1 invasive ductal carcinoma. She immediately underwent a lumpectomy followed by radiation and then had to go in for a second surgery the next day.

For the following five years and up until the present day Goodacre has been taking tamoxifen, an estrogen modulator that helps prevent hormone receptor-positive breast cancers from developing. (Basically, many forms of breast cancer are estrogen-responsive, meaning the tumor can grow in response to estrogen. Tamoxifen blocks the effects of estrogen.)

While she has been in remission for five years, the side effects of the drug, namely the weight gain, have been difficult for the former Victoria’s Secret model. “I’ve always been a pretty fit person, and so to be just rounder and heavier and not to really be able to do much about it — that’s been hard. It’s taken a lot out of my self-confidence,” she explained in October.

Connick and his wife have learned the importance of awareness and are currently part of The New 50 campaign, urging people to get regular colon cancer screenings. “I know firsthand the value of early detection,” he recently told USA Today. “Sadly, my own mother lost her battle with ovarian cancer when I was only 13 years old, but Jill and I are so grateful that a routine mammogram and sonogram found Jill’s breast cancer in the early stages, which we believe saved her life. Now that we are on the other side of that experience, we want to spread the word about the importance of timely screening, in particular for colon cancer, a disease for which screening rates are way too low.”

Evidence has shown that celebrities like Harry Connick Jr. can indeed influence public health: A 2017 study found that after Angelina Jolie’s 2013 announcement about deciding to undergo a preventive double mastectomy, more women elected to have the surgery. Researchers dubbed this “the Jolie effect.”

Since breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States for women (according to the Centers for Disease Control), it is important to get regular screenings. Some physicians recommend getting regular mammograms from the age of 40 on, while others suggest 50. But if breast cancer runs in your family, it’s worth getting regular screenings much sooner. If you are concerned about breast cancer or any other type of cancer, consult your doctor as soon as possible, as Goodacre did. It could save your life!

Read more: 20 Celebrities Who Have Battled Cancer

What Do YOU Think?

Do celebrities have a big influence on public health? Are you surprised the Connick family saved lives by opening up about Jill’s breast cancer struggle? Do you get a regular screening for cancer?