"I was diagnosed with breast cancer on Nov. 9 and the cancer was caught early and it is curable," she said.
Hutchens made the emotional notice to her command staff last week, despite wishing she could keep it to herself.
"I felt they needed to know because they will notice a few changes in my appearance," she said.
Hutchens has served as sheriff since 2008 when the board of supervisors appointed her to the position following the resignation of former sheriff Mike Carona after he was indicted by a federal grand jury.
Hutchens went on to win a majority of votes in the June 2010 primary election.
The 57-year-old says she plans to remain in command as she undergoes chemotherapy, surgery and radiation over the next six to eight months. She had her first treatment Friday.
"Hope and prayers that she'll be successful in fighting this," said Orange County Assistant Sheriff Lee Trujillo.
Hutchens, a Dana Point resident, says the diagnosis has put things into perspective.
"When you get something like this, you don't sweat the small stuff anymore," she said. "It's all small stuff when it gets down to survival."
Hutchens says she'll cut back on her workload, for instance not doing as many speaking engagements.
"We don't think there will be any lag in how we run the sheriff's department," said Cmdr. Steve Kea. "She'll stay on top of it. We'll be there to support her through the way."
The sheriff says she never imagined having cancer. She never smoked and takes care of herself.
"I had a mammogram six months ago and they found nothing, everything was fine. I found this through self examination," she said.
Hutchens is hoping her story will encourage others to do breast self-examinations.
"She has mentored women not only in law enforcement but now she's going to mentor them in another avenue, with another hat, if you will, a survivor hat," said Cmdr. Linda Solorza.
Hutchens said she does plan to seek a second term.