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Rachel Maddow Says This Was the First Sign She Had Cancer

The news host says she was alerted to the issue by two people close to her.

Commentator Rachel Maddow is one of the most recognizable names in cable news and has broken many major stories to viewers on-air over the years. But on Oct. 6, the MSNBC host kicked off her show after taking the previous two nights off with a bit of shocking personal news, saying she had recently been diagnosed with cancer and undergone surgery to treat it. In her first public discussion about her illness, Maddow explained to viewers the first sign she noticed that made her concerned enough to see her doctor. Read on to see what the big red flag was.

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Rachel Maddow says the first sign she had skin cancer was a mole on her neck that had changed.

Dermatologist inspecting patient for skin cancer

During the opening segment of The Rachel Maddow Show, Maddow told viewers that she was recently at a minor league baseball game with her partner of 22 years, Susan Mikula, who pointed out that the look of a mole on Maddow's neck had changed in appearance. Maddow says her initial thought was that "I had no idea what she was talking about," brushing off the warning while joking that Mikula simply hadn't noticed the mole before. She said she tried to explain it away by claiming it had changed because of a "mosquito bite or sunburn or something."

Mikula was insistent, however, and told Maddow to get the opinion of her hairstylist of two decades. When asked about the mole, Maddow says her stylist, Diane, immediately agreed that there was something wrong. "[Diane] said immediately, 'Yes, I was going to say something about it myself. That mole has changed,'" she said.

"Long story short, Susan was right, Dianne was right," Maddow explained. "I went to the dermatologist, she said, 'Hey, you know what? That mole has changed.' I was like, 'Yeah, I've heard that.' Did a biopsy, turns out it was skin cancer."

Maddow has already undergone surgery to remove the cancer, saying the doctors "got all of it."

Rachel Maddow appearing on the Tonight Show
Getty / Theo Wargo

Maddow explained that she had surgery the previous Friday to remove the cancer, explaining her absence the last two nights. She took the opportunity to praise her doctors and said the experience had changed how she would monitor her health from now on.

"I had a few days off because I had surgery at NYU Langone on Friday. They're fantastic. They got it, they got all of it," Maddow said. "I'm good, I have clear margins and the whole thing. I now need to have everything checked, like, every five minutes from here on out because I do not want to get this again."

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Doctors gave Maddow an excellent prognosis, saying she "could have come back right away" from surgery.

Rachel Maddow hosting her MSNBC program on Oct. 6, 2021
Twitter / @MaddowBlog

Fortunately, Maddow explained that she received an excellent prognosis from the doctors and that she felt so good she even tried to get back to work the same day she had the surgery. "I'm going to be totally fine, but that is why I have a band-aid," Maddow said, explaining the small bandage on her neck and face. "I actually have felt fine since I got the surgery on Friday, in terms of how I felt, and pain levels and stuff. I could have come back right away. I could have been on the air Friday night. I didn't do that because I didn't want to weird you out because of the visual of me having the band-aid."

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Maddow urged viewers to keep an eye out for skin cancer and to schedule regular checkups.

woman in blue shirt photographed from behind talking to a young doctor with a stethoscope around her neck

The news host then took a moment to remind viewers to keep an eye on their own cancer signs and symptoms, telling them to see a doctor at the first sign there's an issue. "Even the skin cancers that are the deadliest skin cancers in this country, those too are way more treatable than they used to be on one condition: That you get them early," Maddow said. "Even the most worrying forms of skin cancer. If you identify it early enough, it is now quite treatable."

"Schedule a check now with your doctor," she urged. "Then when your doctor tells you you're fine, but you should do this every year, put it in the calendar in your phone for a year from now, and then actually come back and do that follow-up appointment…It's only by the grace of Susan that I found mine in enough time that it was totally treatable because I have been blowing off my appointments forever to get stuff like that checked because I've assumed it will always be fine."

Maddow even took a moment to put the concerns of those who are wary about checkups to rest. "They just look you all over and go … 'Let me measure. Yeah, still looks the same as last time. Yep.' They don't even do anything that hurts when they check you over. It's the doctor's appointment equivalent of getting your car inspected," she explained.

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Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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