Wanda Sykes Will Never Ever Have To Worry About Getting Breast Cancer Ever Again

“…in February. I went for the [breast] reduction. I had real big boobs and I just got tired of knocking over stuff. Every time I eat … Oh lord. I’d carry a Tide stick everywhere I go. My back was sore so it was time to have a reduction.

“It wasn’t until after the reduction that in the lab work, the pathology, that they found that I had DCIS [ductal carcinoma in situ] in my left breast. I was very, very lucky because DCIS is basically stage-zero cancer. So I was very lucky.

“But cancer is cancer. I had the choice of, you can go back every three months and get it checked. Have a mammogram, MRI every three months just to see what it’s doing. But, I’m not good at keeping on top of stuff. I’m sure I’m overdue for an oil change and a teeth cleaning already…

“[So I decided to] have a bilateral mastectomy. I had both breasts removed … because now I have zero chance of having breast cancer.”

– Wanda Sykes talking to Ellen Degeneres about her breast cancer scare and resulting double mastectomy.

Image via greginhollywood

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  • tallest

    so wait… she’s on tv talking about her over-reaction to “stage-zero cancer” like it’s a good thing? Sounds to me like she got scared and cut her boobs off. Not that I care but why is this important at all to a gay site like queerty? Because she’s a lesbian? Does everything a famous gay person does have to be mentioned on Queerty or is it just the frivolous stupid things?

  • mike128

    @tallest: breast cancer is a serious issue for women and transmen – (and occasionally gay men as well, though obviously less often). i think that makes it worth reporting on this site.

  • nix

    it’s an issue for trans women too

  • Holla

    I’m with “tallest” on this. I’m fine with a Wanda Sykes story, but the story is that she cut off her tits because she might develop cancer? It seems a bit overreactive and doesn’t do any of the education that mike128 notes.

  • reason

    Well, I thought it was interesting from a body image perspective. Are lesbians more inclined to get breast reductions than straight women, also is there less of a psychological impact? The same could be asked about the double mastectomy. Just becuase some can’t draw intellectual questions from a story doesn’t mean that others can’t.

  • the crustybastard

    @Holla: “the story is that she cut off her tits because she might develop cancer?”

    The story is she DID develop cancer, and “she cut off her tits” so that it wouldn’t metastasize and kill her.

    Jesus Christ.

  • Holla

    @the crustybastard: Actually the story is that she developed DCIS which, according to her is “basically stage zero breast cancer”. She even says she had the mastectomy because she didn’t want to do the follow-up and watch if it developed further. She now has “zero chance of developing breast cancer.” I’m not bothered by the fact that she had a double mastectomy, although it does seem, given her description here, that it was an overreaction. To each her own. But this is not a story about Wanda Sykes defeating cancer, it’s about a drastic measure to avoid such a condition. her voice and platform carry a lot of weight and I think there is something problematic about presenting this as a reasoned approach to avoiding cancer.

  • Holla

    And my apologies, DCIS is a form of breast cancer. I stand by the rest of what I said, though.

  • milhouse

    Well I guess cutting off a body part pretty much reduces the possibility of developing cancer of that body part. I hear the same reasoning espoused for circumcision, but medically it’s usually not necessary. In the case of Wanda, I’m afraid this will just enforce the notion that gay people really want to be change their sex. Seems like a gross overreaction as she had a beautiful chest.

  • rosepink

    Let’s not forget – lesbians are statistically more likely to get cancer. While there are no doubt multiple reasons for that, that’s indisputable. So, how lesbians are dealing with cancer seems relevant to the site, no?

    Holla – I’m a little baffled by how strongly you feel that she shouldn’t have done it. Um, it is a story about her having cancer and now, categorically, not having cancer. So, yeah, she defeated cancer. As tired as that narrative structure for cancer is.

    reason – I’m intrigued by this too – My grandmother had breast cancer and also had a double mastectomy in order to not have it come back. She was actually a doctor, so not prone to overly drastic moves health-wise. I’ve long suspected she was a lesbian, but she died at age 90 of a stroke (note: not cancer) right before I came out, so we never got to talk about it. But I too wonder if the slightly lesser societal pressure to conform aesthetically (or the exact same societal pressure but people more likely to tell society to fuck right off? Unclear) leads more queer women to feel comfortable doing this.

    milhouse – It doesn’t say in this excerpt whether or not she has reconstructive surgery. That makes a big difference as to whether it is something that would even vaguely imply a changing sex. It’s nice that she had a beautiful chest, but I don’t think she should have to die in order to not upset people. She made a decision about her health that means she is less likely to die. I think at the very least we shouldn’t begrudge her that.

  • mike128

    Also important to note that there are women who opt for this procedure as a preventative method if they have a significant family history of breast cancer and other risk factors. We don’t know why she made this choice – so I think it’s a leap for any of us to assume she “overreacted”.

  • Holla

    It seems to me the recommended treatment was to watch this non-invasive, localized form of cancer regularly to make sure it didn’t become a much more dangerous form. Many prostate cancers are taken care of in the same way because the risk is minimal and the regular monitoring helps to keep on top of this. Because she didn’t want to remember her appointments, she had a mastectomy. It’s a drastic surgical procedure which seems unwarranted in the circumstances. As I said, she can do as she pleases, and I know women who have had mastectomies when there were other treatments available to them, but in this case the cancer is so minimal and unlikely to grow that it seems a wait and see approach makes more sense. She can do it, but the publicity around it now makes it seem like it should be a standard approach, which seems drastic to me. I guess I feel like it need not be a big story because it has implications that I think can be problematic. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I don’t think so.

  • Suzygoo

    It’s was her tits and none of us have any business saying she should have waited until the cancer had progressed to TM4-N3-M1 stage before going to the doctor to have it looked at.

  • Persa

    I know that folks think of this site as a men’s site but you all have sisters, daughters, mothers and friends who may or may not be lesbians but who will definitely have to think about this at some point.

    Asking the question of why a lesbian’s story about breast cancer is relevant to Queerty is just offensive.

    As a person who’s mother and gran BOTH developed breast cancer in their 40s, I can tell you unequivocally if I developed a cancerous tumor in my breasts and having them removed would prevent me from developing breast cancer, I would do it in a heart beat and never look back. I might or might not have reconstructive surgery but I’d be ALIVE to make the decision.

    It is not at all uncommon for women to choose this path when they are at high risk (as Wanda Sykes very clearly indicated she is) for developing breast cancer. Early detection is THE GOAL. It allows women to make an informed decision about their life and future which is what she did.

    It’s just breasts people, it’s not heart, lungs or any vital organ.

    The only person who is in any position to judge whether or not a woman should remove her breasts is the woman in question. End of.

    Further more she is a COMEDIAN. It is her job to use humor to lessen the blow of a serious subject. I seriously doubt that her real reason for getting a radical mastectomy is because she didn’t want to have to keep up with appointments. She may not have wanted to take the “monitor it and see what happens route” but not because she’s lazy or forgetful, OBVIOUSLY, but because she preferred a more straight forward response.

    She was already going in to have a breast reduction so obviously her self esteem does not exist in her breast size (believe it or not, many women also feel this way). Lesbians love breasts (their own and others). The removal of breast does not change the fact the Wanda Sykes is a woman who identifies as a women. Gender identity is not really relevant to this discussion.

    Also, anyone who knows Wanda Sykes knows that she will joke about serious things.

    She also joked about duct-taping her babies to herself as she walks round the house instead of wearing the baby sling (which I’m pretty sure she didn’t actually do) and said it was a perfectly straight face.

    I’d expect reasonable adults to be able to tell the difference between a joke and serious business (even in the context of a discussion of cancer)

    Whatever discussion she had with her personal physician and oncologists resulted in her making the decision to have a radical mastectomy.

    None of us were there, we don’t know what was said or what options were offered and generic info about how breast cancer may or may not be treated isn’t relevant.

    It’s ALWAYS an individual decision.

    It takes great courage to discuss something like this on an international television show and it is brave and empowering for those of us who may have to make this choice in the future (possibly even NEAR future).

    But it’s not like women are just gonna run out to the back yard and start hacking off their breasts because they’ve found a lump.

    Breast cancer already has a disproportionately high death rate for African American women (for a wide variety of reasons) and when you add being a lesbian to the mix (who has never had children) the potential gets higher. Add to that a family history and Wanda Sykes decision makes perfect sense to anyone willing to step outside of their own preconceived notions about how women should look or how they should react to breast cancer.

    She didn’t overreact. She was told she had cancer, she took care of it. Now she doesn’t have breast cancer and the likelihood of her developing breast cancer has been decreased to almost o%. THAT is survival. That is an experience that deserves to be shared.

    The fear that you will no longer feel like a woman or that you will no longer be seen as a sexual being should not prevent you from dealing with breast cancer in this manner IF it is advisable as a means to the end of NOT developing breast cancer any further.

  • One of the CA 36,000

    For the douches that couldn’t be bothered to actually watch the interview Wanda Sykes did on “Ellen”: Her mother’s side of the family has a high incidence of cancer. Genetics play a strong role in certain cancers, including breast. What Wanda did seems extreme, but it’s her body and she made the informed choice to do a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy. And from what I can tell, she’s undergone, or is undergoing, reconstruction.

    Cancer is a bitch. My older sister died of colorectal cancer at 43, and that kicks up the chance I will get it exponentially (I checked out clear earlier this year, but have to re-check in 3 years thanks to a small polyp). And her kids all have to start screening at the age of 25. If you can avoid getting it, do it. Plain and simple.

  • Holla

    I have been thinking about this a lot today and I am willing to admit that I might be a bit off base here, and that my initial tone may have only added to the situation. Yes, it is her decision and she is obviously comfortable with it. and yes women sometimes get preventative mastectomies without cancer present, but something about this situation and its presentation still makes me uncomfortable and I can’t shake it. I’m sorry if that upsets others here, but that’s how it is. And yes I’m a man, but a man with a long family history of breast cancer, so I’m not trying to be some kind of insensitive ass. And yes, she’s a comedian and I get that, but something still sits weird with me in the whole situation. But I’m not an asshole, or an idiot. Nor do I think Wanda Sykes is either.

  • oscar


    Sykes is gay. And, contrary to popular misunderstanding, men do get breast cancer but less frequently than women.

    Also, it’s common for women who have the breast cancer gene or histories of breast cancer in their families to have prophylactic mastectomies.

  • tallest

    I know men get breast cancer, I know lots of things, why are you telling me this? I also know Sykes is gay, I even said it. I don’t care that she did it, her breasts are hers to cut off as she pleases.

    I’m guess what I’m really trying to say is, “Booooring!”

  • Suzygoo

    Lets me get this right! @Tallest questions where this should have been reported on Queerty as Wanda cutting off her tits to FIGHT THE CANCER was frivolous. @Holla agrees that Wanda overreacted by cutting off her tits to FIGHT THE CANCER that was starting to grow in her tits @Millhouse thinks that Wanda cutting her tits off to FIGHT THE CANCER will lead to straights thinking badly of us. That Wanda should have not done so because her tits were beautiful to him. @Holla responds by thinking her decision to FIGHT THE CANCER the way she did was wrong and the she should have done other treatments as he knows what kind of cancer she has based on a few lines in Queerty. That no matter why she cut her tits off to FIGHT THE CANCER is still weird to him and tallest responds that Wanda FIGHTING AND DEFEATING THE CANCER by cutting off her tits is boring. You all are useless like tits on a man!

  • fredo777

    Blah blah blah. It was her body + her choice, which I don’t have a problem with. Having lost my maternal grandmother to breast cancer, I kind of wish she had “overreacted” + done the same.

  • tallest

    Oh “FIGHT THE CANCER” is that what she did? I don’t think that is frivolous, what’s frivolous is Wanda Sykes (I suppose my sentence was poorly constructed to get that point across). Secondly you say “FIGHT THE CANCER” like it’s some kind of Hollywood super-villain growing in her breasts. And I would never call breasts tits, that’s just downright degrading. “Chesticles” maybe, but only when I’m a wee bit drunk. Oh and also yes Wanda Sykes fighting cancer is boooooring. God I almost wish it was her stand-up I’d be just slightly less bored by that.

  • rigon

    @Holla – you’re an idiot. She had cancer. And no doctor is going to perform that surgery unless it’s the best decision for her CANCER. She didn’t just wake up and think, “Oh, I”d like to cut these off”. She had cancer, with doctors and people who advised her. Wise up and ask some people with breast cancer about it. Whether it didn’t “sit well with you” is irrelevant – she HAD CANCER, HAD DOCTORS WHO SPECIALIZE IN THIS TYPE OF CANCER and made a decision that was wise considering her family history, the cancer that they found, and what she would have to endure moving forward. What do you need to have it “sit well” with you? Her doctors records?

    Do some research – look up her type of cancer, talk to some breast cancer survivors or people who didn’t survive because they caught it too late. Hell, why not hang around the Komen walk and talk to the thousands of people there – women and men – and then see if her medical decision “sits well” with you.

    Does it feel good to shit all over someone who just underwent a very difficult and painful procedure? Hope you never get sick and have to make any medical decisions and have people bash you….

  • CaliberGuy

    Because it can affect gay women and trans women, but also every gay person has a mother (or had) and it can affect a gay mans much beloved female relatives and sibling too.

    And in this case it dose sound like Wanda got a scare but then made the medical decision that was best for her, as in her own words she has a hard time doing basic recurring medical care (among other things) so for here the best choice instead of regular check ups and finger crossing was just to eliminate the problem all together and eliminate the risk posed by not staying on top of it.

  • Frank

    You go girl !!!…now get some implants…small ones

  • Ginasf

    A Queerty thread hits a new low in insensitivity, misogyny and non-humor. And that’s saying a lot. Tallest has the emotional maturity of a 12-year old.

    Sykes and her partner just recently had twins. She wants to be here to see them grow up. Is that so hard to understand?

  • Robert in NYC

    A lot of younger women whose family history is riddled with breast cancer often go for a double mastectomy. Males can also contract it actually. Either way, I think it’s a woman’s right to do as she sees fit for her own health and peace of mind. If my mother had done the same, she would have been alive today.

  • tallest

    A twelve year old? I’m moving up.

    I’m hardly insensitive. Or maybe I am. If not caring about Wanda Sykes is insensitive anyway. I find her boring, it’s a personal opinion.

    Also misogyny? Not from me. Ever. Misogyny has no place in the world, along with any other ism. Other than misanthropy, which is fairly useful.

    Seriously though, breast cancer is bad. Wanda Sykes can surgically remove her breasts all she wants. It’s my opinion that she went to extremes in reaction to a small scare.

  • Alex


    Are you a doctor? Doesn’t sound like it. Thousands of women around the word get mastectomies to prevent breast cancer because they have the breast cancer gene, a family history of breast cancer, or cancerous cells.

    Unless you’re a doctor who specializes in breast cancer, it makes no logical sense for you to say that Sikes overreacting.

  • Kim

    How pathetic a person’s life must be to waste time commenting multiple times on a story you find “boring”. Personally I ignore topics/stories I have no interest it.My mother died from breast cancer so this a topic that is very sensitive to me. As a mother of twin toddlers I understand why Wanda made this decision.

  • Troll

    Sykes was not overreacting. She made a difficult, but absolutely logical decision. Sane people don’t like to flirt with death.

  • Interesting

    Even the smallest of cancer in the body can become metastatic (at which point it spreads like a virus to other parts of the body such as the brain, liver and lungs. Metastatic cancer is a horrible way to go. I saw my mother die that way). So her choice makes sense to me regarding the likelihoods in her family and the fact she already presented with the disease.

    I am glad she’s doing this educational service.

    As for the ignorant assholes along this thread- honestly, I can’t say I am surprised.

  • Robert in NYC

    No. 32, right on! My mother died for not doing it. All of these holier than thou hypocrites who criticize Wanda would think twice if it meant the death of their mother, their spouse or significant other. Walk in their shoes and see what it’s like. How would men like it if we said, don’t cut off your testicles even if it meant that if you didn’t, you might die if you had testicular cancer or had a history of it in your family. Ignorant bastards!

  • tallest

    Interestingly enough I’m not a doctor, I’m a Physician Assistant. We’re like doctors only cooler.

    And I may find the story boring as hell but the comments section is oh so fun.

  • Pete n SFO

    This is an interesting arc of comments; idiocy, followed by rational thought, returning to self-important idiocy.

    I’m really glad that this was reported here. It’s important that women understand that some people elect to have breast removal, & doesn’t make them freaks. Gratefully, I’ve got tons of lesbians in my life (& wanna keep it that way!) and they’re some of the coolest ppl I know.

    This is such a relevant story b/c it does bump against the ‘role’ of breasts in society, the spectrum of body/gender types, straight v. gay women & their breasts, & women being in control of their own bodies. Plus, in SFO at least it happens to coincide w/ the Koman Walk for a Cure.

    I know several gals that are not trans, but might identify as boy-lesbians that have had their breasts removed & they are ALL psyched.

    It’s always most surprising to me, still, that gay men despite their own marginalizing in society, are sometimes the least able to empathize when the experience is not their own. All I can say is, you girls lack something- take it to therapy.

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