Tuesday, October 01, 2013

It's Breast Cancer Awareness Month For Trans Women, Too

One of the things we obsess about in our early body morphing stage of our gender transitions is our breasts.  We get happy when we start HRT and the breast buds start developing,   We wonder how big will they get and if they aren't a size we're happy about how soon can we get the implants to rectify that situation.

As my endo Dr Emery pointed out to me early in my transition back in 1994, we transwomen also get an increased breast cancer risk along with the boobies.  

Today is the beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in which we take time to raise public awareness about breast cancer, its causes, the latest research in combating it, and raising money to find a cure for it.

So how does breast cancer affect transgender individuals?

Unfortunately there isn't enough research at this time about how breast cancer affects trans people (or any other disease) and what I've heard about breast cancer and trans people is sketchy at best or anecdotal.

And as we push for the healthcare fields to do more research on how various diseases affect the trans population, our allies in the trans healthcare field have noted the following effects:
  • For a transgender woman, the risk of breast cancer increases following breast development and five or more years of hormone therapy.
  • For a transgender man, excessive testosterone can be converted into estrogen by the body, which leads to increased cancer risk. Additionally, transgender men may feel uncomfortable with either self-exams or medical exams, and may not realize that top surgery does not remove all breast tissue. Self-examination is a useful prevention tool that can be life-saving, regardless of a person’s gender.
Photo: Doctor talking with female patientFor African-American trans and our cis sisters, we need to be concerned about the fact that although fewer African-American cis women get the disease, we unfortunately have the highest death rates for breast cancer out of all ethnic groups for it because of late detection and the type of breast cancer we tend to get is a fast growing and hard to treat one.    

That fast growing and hard to treat breast cancer that African-American women tend to get is something that African-American trans women should be concerned and vigilant about especially if the cis women in our family have a history of breast cancer combined with us being on HRT. 

Trans and cis women alike need to do breast self exams on a regular basis. For those of us 40 and older, we need to be doing mammograms every 1 to 2 years and speak with our doctors about what screening and prevention measures are most appropriate for us and for your body.


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