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Breast Cancer Claims Survivor Contestant Jennifer Lyon


Jennifer Lyon, who was the fourth-place finisher on “Survivor: Palau” in 2005, has died of breast cancer. The 37-year-old reality star was diagnosed with stage- three breast cancer in 2005 and underwent a double mastectomy followed by chemotherapy and tamoxifen after getting her diagnosis.

Lyon told People magazine in October 2005 that she had felt an abnormality in her right breast in the summer of 2004, but she thought it was likely scar tissue associated with breast implants, “So I let it go—for a long time.”

The American Cancer Society notes that women who have breast implants “are a special challenge for mammogram screening.” Because the x-rays cannot go through silicone or saline implants well enough to show the breast tissue that is over or under it, women with implants have four extra x-rays taken. In the extra x-rays, called implant displacement views, the implant is pushed back against the chest wall and the breast is pulled forward over it, which allows for better imaging. This approach does not work well in women who have developed hard scar tissue around their implants.

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However, according to the Mayo Clinic, although breast implants can obscure mammogram images, research shows that mammograms are an effective way to screen for breast cancer in women who have breast implants.

Despite her illness, Jennifer Lyon had dedicated much of her time to raising money for breast cancer research. On her website, she notes several charitable organizations with which she was involved, including Y-Me (now called Network of Strength), which helps thousands of people find information about breast cancer and get assistance from peer counselors on their 24-hour hotline.

Jennifer also was involved with Lifetime Network, with whom she did a special called “Women Rock” with Melissa Etheridge. US Weekly Magazine also published an article about Jennifer’s fight with breast cancer. This past holiday season, she opened a Christmas tree lot and had the proceeds go to her cause.

Jennifer Lyon may have lost her battle with breast cancer, but her fight and courage may also serve to prompt other women to not delay seeking a mammogram when they feel something is wrong with their breasts, especially women who have had breast implants. Breast cancer can be treated much more successfully if caught early. Women who want more information about breast cancer and breast cancer screening can contact the American Cancer Society, Network of Strength, or any of the many other organizations dedicated to breast cancer research and education.

American Cancer Society
Jennifer Lyon’s website
Mayo Clinic
Network of Strength
People magazine, Jan. 20, 2010