DAVENPORT, IOWA — Elizabeth Edwards said Wednesday that she felt she had let down her family and the country by neglecting to get mammograms that could have caught her cancer earlier.
Edwards -- appearing with her husband, Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards, in their first trip to Iowa since announcing her cancer had returned -- admonished women to get mammograms.
She said she didn't, and by the time she felt a lump in her breast in 2004 and was able to get it removed, it had grown to 9 centimeters and the cancer had spread.
"I do not have to be in this situation," Edwards told about 500 people at a banquet hall. "I am responsible for putting myself, this man, my family and, frankly, putting you all at risk too, because I think you deserve the chance to vote for this man."
Later, John Edwards said he knew his wife didn't get mammograms because she wasn't in the habit of putting herself first.
"It's not surprising to me that she would say that, but I think she's being too hard on herself," he told the Associated Press.
Elizabeth Edwards was responding to an audience member who asked her to spread the word about mammograms.
"It had the chance to migrate because I sat at home doing whatever I thought was important and didn't get mammograms," Edwards said.
"It wasn't that I didn't know. There are women in this audience who know perfectly well whether or not they're doing what they need to do and get mammograms. If you are one of the people who knew but aren't doing it, obviously you need a new strategy.
"Women often put themselves at the bottom [of the] list of things to do. When I put my health at the bottom of the list, I was putting him at the bottom of the list, my children at the bottom of the list, the country at the bottom of the list," she said.
Edwards found out two weeks ago that her breast cancer had spread to her ribs.
John Edwards and his wife announced it at a news conference where they said it would not affect his decision to run for the White House.
She said Tuesday that she had received some good news since learning that the cancer had spread: Hers is more likely to be controlled by anti-estrogen drugs.
Edwards said she planned to fight the disease as hard as she could.