Anchorman’s Christina Applegate on dealing with breast cancer and why US health care is “a big mess”

The actress had a double mastectomy after being diagnosed with cancer but says many Americans can't afford the procedure

Christina Applegate may be riding high right now on a wave of positive reviews and Veronica Corningstone fan-love for her new film Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, but it wasn’t all that long ago that the popular funny girl reached a low point. Applegate, who first rose to fame in the late 1980s as Kelly Bundy in US sitcom Married with Children, was diagnosed at the age of 36 with breast cancer. She had a double mastectomy.

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The California-born actress thanks her doctor for referring her for an MRI scan as a precaution, which picked up the early signs. But what she discovered while she was being scanned came as a shock.

Speaking ahead of the release of Anchorman 2, Christina told RadioTimes.com, “The woman at the hospital said to me, ‘Women are opting not to get [MRIs] because they’re so expensive, and we’re trying to tell them because they’re high risk, they have to get them – and we have to find a way [to make this happen].’ Insurance companies won’t pay for them, unless you have incredible insurance – but they’re, like, $1,500”.

Applegate criticised health care in the United States, saying, “Our health care system is not so good over there. It’s quite a big mess, isn’t it? It’s all a big mess.”

It was her own experience that inspired her to take action, and after her own scare in 2008, she set up a charity called Right Action For Women. Applegate said, “We’ve got about 200 women in the programme right now who are all high risk and who we help yearly to get their MRIs.” 

Women are identified as high risk if they have a history of breast cancer in their families: the gene that makes women more susceptible to breast cancer can be inherited. 

“It is genetic. I have the gene so my chance of getting breast cancer was 80 per cent. My chance of ovarian [cancer] is 50 per cent. It does run in people’s families. My mum has it. I have the gene.”

Applegate is thankful that her position gives her a platform from which to be heard. “The beauty of being able to do this for a living is that when things come up that you’re passionate about, you can do something about it.“

Christina Applegate stars in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues in cinemas from 18 December


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