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7 Popular Black Women Who Have Battled Breast Cancer

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), although black women have lower rates of getting breast cancer, black women have higher rates of dying from the illness; breast cancer death rates are 40% higher for black women.

The CDC also published other alarming facts: breast cancer rates for black women under 60 years of age are higher. White women also have a chance of earlier diagnosis as compared to black women.

Black women are also more likely to get triple-negative breast cancer, “a kind of breast cancer that often is aggressive and comes back after treatment.”

Keep scrolling through the list to learn about seven popular black women who have battled breast cancer:

Wanda Sykes

Comedian and actress Wanda Sykes was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 and she subsequently had a double mastectomy.

Ironically, Sykes had been given a clean bill of health when she previously underwent a mammogram and biopsy before having breast reduction surgery.

“I had just had a mammogram and a biopsy, and it all came back negative, if I hadn’t had the reduction, who knows what would have happened,” Sykes told People Magazine in 2011.

Sykes has remained cancer free.

Diahann Carroll

In 1992, actress and singer Diahann Carroll was told that she had breast cancer. Carroll treated her illness by having a lumpectomy followed by 12 weeks of radiation.

In 2016 Carroll stated to Spectrum Health, “The thought of dying certainly will make you humble. …I had to try to handle it with as much dignity and not worry my family about it constantly. I’ve always believed that if you can find a brighter side of a very unfortunate, unhappy-making situation, it’s your responsibility to do that because everyone around you is going to be even more devastated than you. At some point, you have to take charge of the fact that you have a life to live and you’ll do the best that you can.”

Carroll has been in remission since.

Hattie McDaniel

Hattie McDaniel was an actress, comedian and singer/songwriter. Her breakout role as “Mammy” in the film, Gone with the Wind put her on the map.

On October 26, 1952, McDaniel died from breast cancer. The year prior, she had suffered from a mild stroke.

Shirley Graham Du Bois

Author, playwright and wife of civil rights activist W.E.B Du Bois chartered her own lane away from the shadow of her husband.

Du Bois used song, story and art to convey the plight of African Americans to audiences near and far.

After travelling to Ghana, then Egypt, Du Bois died of breast cancer in China on March 27, 1977.

Ruby Dee

Actress and activist had an illustrious career that spanned over the course of 73 years.

Dee was diagnosed with the disease in 1970, however, she beat it and remained in remission until her death in 2014 from natural causes.

Nina Simone

Nina Simone, born Eunice Kathleen Waymon, was a pianist, singer, arranger and civil rights activist.

Not only was she a talented musician, she also used her platform to speak about the injustices that black people in the United States experienced and regarded herself as a nationalist.

Simone suffered from breast cancer in the 1990s before dying of natural causes on April 21, 2003.

Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde was a famed feminist, poet and writer. Lorde fought cancer twice. In 1978 she was diagnosed with breast cancer, then she battled with liver cancer in 1984.

Lorde chronicled her experiences of having breast cancer in her book, The Cancer Journals.

The Guardian posted excerpts from the book and in one she wrote, “I have cancer, I am a black feminist poet. How am I going to do this now?”

After having a mastectomy on one of her breasts, she recalls how a nurse brought a prosthetic bra to her. The nurse said, “you’ll never know the difference.”

Lorde concluded, “I knew sure as hell I’d know the difference.”

Lorde died on November 17, 1992, in St Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.


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