Christina Applegate's battle with cancer: 7 Things you probably forgot

Nov 10, 2014 at 12:55 p.m. ET
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Christina Applegate has been an advocate for breast cancer survivors since her own shocking diagnosis in 2008. As she joins Stand Up to Cancer and Cancer Treatment Centers of America in a new campaign to help the friends and family of cancer patients, we take a look back at the actress's personal journey through the disease.

1. She was just 36 when she was diagnosed. While many think of it as a disease older women battle, according to it is estimated that around 250,000 women under the age of 40 are living with the disease in the U.S. alone and more than 13,000 in the age group will be diagnosed this year.

2. About a month before her diagnosis was made public, her boyfriend Lee Grivas was found dead of an apparent heroin overdose while she was grappling with her scary health news. They had dated for about two years. Needless to say, the summer of 2008 was not a good one for the actress.

3. Just like Angelina Jolie, she found out she carries the BRCA genetic mutation, making a cancer recurrence much more likely. Because of this, she opted for a double mastectomy after originally being treated with a lumpectomy.

4. She staged a sexy photo shoot before her mastectomy. "I made sure that I have close-up photographs of them from every angle so I can kind of remember them," she told Oprah.

5. Her mother is also a breast cancer survivor. Because of her family history, Applegate was vigilant about self-exams and mammograms, even moving to MRIs when her breast tissue was deemed dense. This closer look may be what saved her life. The lesson: Early detection doesn't always come from traditional methods like mammograms.

6. She started a foundation to encourage early detection so even more lives can be saved. Right Action for Women offers free MRIs for people at high risk like Applegate was. "Were into almost 500 now," she told Entertainment Tonight in April 2014. "We've spent over half a million dollars on MRIs, which is really incredible, which is a lot of money."

7. Her celeb friends offered their support when she needed it, and she paid it forward. One of her biggest cheerleaders was fellow breast cancer survivor Melissa Etheridge, she told Oprah, and when Giuliana Rancic received her bad news, Applegate reached out in kind. "I know firsthand how important it is to have a strong support system," Applegate said in a statement through the Stand Up to Cancer campaign. "It was a sense of community that helped me, as well as many others, get through a time that is never easy; and why I am so proud to join Stand Up to Cancer and Cancer Treatment Centers of America on this campaign. Each of us has the power to support and fight."

Tell us: What's your personal cancer story?