Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Picture: Bang Showbiz

Julia Louis-Dreyfus has been diagnosed with breast cancer, and is using the shocking news to urge her fans to help "make universal health care a reality".

The 56-year-old actress has taken to social media to reveal she is battling with the disease, and has used the announcement to call for her fans to help her in the fight to end "all cancers", and "make universal health care a reality".

In a note posted on Twitter on Thursday, she wrote: "1 in 8 women get breast cancer. Today, I'm the one. 

"The good news is that I have the most glorious group of supportive and caring family and friends, and fantastic insurance through my union. The bad news is that not all women are so lucky. So let's fight all cancers and make universal healthcare a reality."

Julia is arguably best known for her leading role in HBO comedy 'Veep' - for which she recently picked up two gongs at the Primetime Emmy Awards, for Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series - and the network has sent their "love and support" to the star.

They said in a statement: "Our love and support go out to Julia and her family at this time. We have every confidence she will get through this with her usual tenacity and undaunted spirit, and look forward to her return to health and to HBO for the final season of 'Veep'."

For Julia - who has two sons, Henry, 25, and Charles, 20, with her husband Brad Hall - the devastating news comes just over a year after she tragically lost her father shortly before the 2016 Emmys, where she gave an emotional speech in his honour.

She said on stage at the time: "I'd like to dedicate this [Emmy] to my father, William Louis-Dreyfus, who passed away on Friday. I'm so glad that he liked 'Veep' because his opinion was the one that really mattered. Thank you."