’90s Supermodel Linda Evangelista Had Breast Cancer Twice in 5 Years

By Steve Blanchard - September 12, 2023

Linda Evangelista was made famous in the 1990s as one of the “original supermodels.” Today, she’s an outspoken cancer survivor who recently revealed that she had breast cancer twice in five years.

In an interview released by Wall Street Journal Magazine earlier this month, Evangelista shared she was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018 after her annual mammogram.

“The margins were not good, and due to other health factors, without hesitation, because I wanted to put everything behind me and not to have to deal with this, I opted for a bilateral mastectomy,” she told the magazine. “Thinking I was good and set for life. Breast cancer was not going to kill me.”

In July 2022, Evangelista shared that she felt a lump on her chest and requested an MRI. It was cancer in her pectoral muscle.

She had surgery and her prognosis is good, but she will continue to be monitored for another recurrence.

“I am so happy to be alive,” she told Vanity Fair during a recent 100th anniversary party for Phaidon Publishing. “I know I am very fortunate.”

According to Dr. Avan Armaghani, a medical oncologist in Moffitt Cancer Center’s Breast Oncology Program, recurrence of breast cancer after a mastectomy happens in approximately 3% of patients and typically occurs within two to three years after surgery.

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"In these cases, it is important to perform imaging to ensure that there is no evidence of distant metastatic disease."

- Dr. Avan Armaghani, Breast Oncology Program

“In this case it is certainly a rare occurrence,” Armaghani said. “In these cases, it is important to perform imaging to ensure that there is no evidence of distant metastatic disease.”

Evangelista’s journey also shows the importance of regular mammograms. Had it not been for her mammogram in 2016, she would not have discovered her cancer so early.

All women, regardless of race, should begin annual mammograms no later than age 40, according to Dr. Bethany Niell, the section chief of breast imaging at Moffitt.

“Women at increased risk may need to begin breast cancer screening exams as early as age 25,” Niell added. “To save the most lives, mammograms should be done every year and mammograms should start at age 40, not 50.”

Since making the announcement, Evangelista has made several public appearances promoting a new television show and a new book. She said that sharing her breast cancer journey now makes sense.

"I’ve kept it quiet. Only a handful of people knew."

- Linda Evangelista

“I’ve kept it quiet,” she told the Wall Street Journal. “Only a handful of people knew. And I’m just not one of those people who has to share everything.”

Having a support network, whether publicly or privately, is a key to coping with and surviving any cancer diagnosis, Armaghani said. It’s important to have people in your life to lean on.

“Whether that is a partner or spouse, family members or friends, it’s important to take care of your mental and emotional well-being,” Armaghani said. “Our social workers are always available to help provide resources for support groups.”

Even though Evangelista is still under surveillance for a recurrence, she said she’s “totally in celebration mode,” which is an important state of mind, according to Armaghani.

“I am a big believer in the mind-body connection and the healing powers of positive thinking,” Armaghani said.

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