Wanda Sykes came out recently to discuss her double mastectomy and family history of breast cancer. She had a bilateral mastectomy, having both breasts removed. She opened up to Ellen DeGeneres telling her that doctors discovered that she had stage zero breast cancer while undergoing a breast reduction.
In this segment from episode 201 of NoMoreDownLow.TV, one of the founding mothers of the breast cancer advocacy movement Dr. Susan Love talks to us about whether black lesbians are at greater risk for breast cancer. Dr. Love is the president of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation and is known for her New York Times best-seller “Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book” referred to as “the bible for women with breast cancer.”
Dr. Love says that the African American women, in general, get breast cancer younger and it’s more deadly. And she says that black lesbian women, in particular, may have less access to healthcare making screening more challenging.
Dr. Love adds that “It’s not being lesbian that puts you at higher risk (for breast cancer)… but it means that you are less likely to be monitored and screened.” She says that the main thing that drives women to the gynecologist is birth control, so if you’re not going for birth control you are less likely to get pap smears, less likely get mammograms or get checked with breast exams.
“Stage zero” breast cancer is also referred to as DCIS. Sykes told DeGeneres a family history of breast cancer was part of her motivation to undergo the procedure. However, removal of both breasts is not the normal course of treatment for DCIS.
In an interview with ABCNews.com, Dr. Love added: “DCIS is not considered cancer but rather a precancerous or noninvasive condition…As such it does not have the potential to kill you.” She also told ABCNews.com:
Love said that, according to the few studies that have been conducted, DCIS has a 30 to 50 percent chance of developing into an invasive cancer if left untreated – which means that in at least half of women, it will never develop into full-blown cancer. It may even disappear.
Still, Love said that the best approach regarding treatment is an individual decision – particularly since there is currently no way to determine which DCIS will progress into cancer and which will not.