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Cancer Survivor Rita Wilson Says Doing This Saved Her Life

She's passionate about sharing this crucial message with others.

Rita Wilson wears many hats: She's an actor, a country music singer, and of course the wife of Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks. But in 2015, the multi-hyphenated talent was delivered a surprising setback when she learned she had breast cancer. Taking leave from her Broadway role in Fish in the Dark opposite Larry David, Wilson underwent a double mastectomy and reconstructive breast surgery before being pronounced cancer-free. Since then, she's been spreading one important message about the medical choice she believes saved her life following her difficult diagnosis. Read on to learn what Wilson says was the single defining factor in her own rapid recovery, and why it may just save your life, too.

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Wilson was first diagnosed with lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS).

Rita Wilson
Rich Fury/Getty Images

Prior to her cancer diagnosis, Wilson was discovered to have lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS), a non-cancerous condition in which abnormal cells form in the milk ducts of the breasts. People with LCIS are more likely to develop breast cancer in the future, so Wilson's doctors closely monitored the condition with regular MRIs and mammograms. "In LCIS, cells that look like cancer cells are growing in the lining of the milk-producing glands (lobules) of the breast, but they don't invade through the wall of the lobules," explains the American Cancer Society.

In 2015, when she went for her annual screening, doctors performed biopsies on her abnormal cells, but believed them to be benign. "I was relieved when the pathology showed no cancer," she shared in a 2015 statement published by People. However, shortly after, Wilson learned that she actually suffered from an invasive form of breast cancer, pleomorphic carcinoma in situ (PLCIS), which would require a bilateral mastectomy.

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She says doing this saved her life.

Rita Wilson
Mickey Bernal/Getty Images

Now 100 percent cancer-free, the usually-private star is adamant about making one of her medical decisions public. Wilson says her decision to seek a second opinion following her initial test results was the key to her successful recovery.

"For me, this is about telling people, 'You can get a second opinion—your insurance will pay for it, even Obamacare, God bless it, will pay for it,'" she told The New York Times in 2015. "It's so easy to say, 'I'm just being paranoid,' but you should trust your gut," she added.

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There's more than one way to get a second opinion.

Rita Wilson
Mark Sagliocco/WireImage via Getty Images

Wilson says that if you do choose to get a second opinion, it's important to remember that you can specifically request a second opinion on the pathology itself. This means that instead of asking a second doctor to re-interpret existing data, your doctor or another expert may re-run tests to look for new diagnostic information.

"A friend who had had breast cancer suggested I get a second opinion on my pathology and my gut told me that was the thing to do," Wilson explained in her 2015 statement. "I share this to educate others that a second opinion is critical to your health. You have nothing to lose if both opinions match up for the good, and everything to gain if something that was missed is found, which does happen. Early diagnosis is key," she said.

"I just had that gut [feeling]," she added while speaking with Today in 2016. "That was really the thing that made all the difference."

Having cancer brought Wilson and Hanks "even closer."

Tom Hanks Rita Wilson
David Livingston/Getty Images for Fashion Media

If there's a silver lining to Wilson's cancer battle, she says it's in the new depths of intimacy she and Hanks reached during the ordeal. "Who knew it would make you even closer?" Wilson, now 65, said to The New York Times. "You never know how your spouse is going to react in a situation like this. I was so amazed, so blown away by the care my husband gave me. It was such a normal, intimate time."

She was also met with an outpouring of support from her friends, family, and neighbors. "To be exposed to this amount of goodness—I'm just incredibly grateful," she reflected.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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