Why Transgender Women’s Breast Cancer Risk Is Still A Mystery

From BuzzFeed:  http://www.buzzfeed.com/annanorth/why-transgender-womens-breast-cancer-risk-is-stil

When a trans woman develops breasts, does her cancer risk rise too? Experts say maybe not — but politics keeps them from knowing for sure.

Anna North
May 8, 2012

Last week, Beth Scott won her battle to get her insurance carrier to cover her mammogram, after they refused to because she’s transgender. Scott’s doctor had recommended the screening, but when it comes to figuring out their actual risk of breast cancer, transgender women (and men) face a frustrating lack of information.

According to Dr. Maddie Deutsch, director of the transgender health program at the LA Gay & Lesbian Center the risk of breast cancer for trans women like Scott is relatively low. It’s likely “much lower,” she says, than the risk for cisgender (that is, non-trans) women. And trans men have surgery to remove their breasts, a small amount of breast tissue can remain, but the reduced amount translates to a significant reduction in risk.

However, she also noted that there’s a serious lack of research in this area. It’s not clear, for instance, whether developing breasts as part of gender transition actually raises a person’s cancer risk — that is, whether transgender women are more likely to get breast cancer than men who never grow breasts. Most funding for trans-related health issues has focused on HIV, mental health, or substance abuse — there’s been almost no research into general health concerns like breast cancer.

The reason, according to JoAnne Keatley, director of the Center of Excellence for Transgender Health at UCSF, is that people who control research money still think of transgender health as a political hot potato. So federal grants for trans health research aren’t available, and private donors shy away too. Keatley says, “there’s no private foundation that I’m aware of that is willing to provide money” to study breast cancer in trans women. A 1988 case study looked at one trans woman who developed cancer 10 years after her transition, and mentioned two previous cases, but according to Keatley, no large-scale research whatsoever into the incidence of breast cancer in transgender people has been done.

Continue reading at:  http://www.buzzfeed.com/annanorth/why-transgender-womens-breast-cancer-risk-is-stil

6 Responses to “Why Transgender Women’s Breast Cancer Risk Is Still A Mystery”

  1. Andrea B. Says:

    I am not so sure it is as rare as people think.

    I have moderated several post op lists over the years.

    I know of two from UK who had breast removal due to breast cancer.

    The shrinks actually state that transsexual people can not get breast cancer in full knowledge they can. That is a problem that needs to be raised.

    It is also an issue that can not be raised with activists as they just shoot it down and repeat the shrink mantra of no cancer in transsexual people. Ironically one activist I did discuss it will did die of cancer.

    • Suzan Says:

      If I had a different doctor I might well have wound up with a double mastectomy when I had my implants removed some 8 years ago. My doctor did several biopsies first but I had some seriously sketchy scar tissue under those implants.

      There is a lot of bigotry when it comes to treating post-transsexual folks and an almost willful refusal to think we might have some of the same issues as other members of the sex we’ve been reassigned to.

      All the focus is on the drama of transition and very littel on the post-transsexual needs.

  2. Andrea B. Says:

    Suzy, I would go a lot further.

    I really believe that most of the medics think of post transsexual care in fetishistic terms.

    We do not receive medical care, we receive a medics fetishisation of us by people who are clearly a threat to vulnerable adults and children.

    • Suzan Says:

      I don’t know if it is that. Tina and I have a family doctor for our day to day needs and managing our getting older beyond running a base line prostate screening which he later decided he didn’t have to do we are treated pretty much like ordinary old women.

      There were a few curious questions at the start and now most questions are about our diet and exercise, that sort of thing.

      I think we need to start pushing the idea of post-transsexual life, the stuff that happens once the whole sex changing business is ancient history.

      My life hasn’t been all that transcentric and I’m one of those transsexual activist, I documented it and maintain friendships.

      I suspect there is more fetishization for those who don’t escape the ghetto.

  3. Andrea B. Says:

    You are lucky your medic is good with you.

    A lot of transsexual people end up stuck with medics who treat them like shit, regardless of wether they are in the ghetto or not.

    I agree with the idea of pushing the idea of post transsexual life, especially to medics. Getting into the heads of quite a few medics that we are not aliens or fetishists will not be an easy job. I dread to think what the reaction of TGs and activists will be.

    • Suzan Says:

      Actually a little bit of research vastly improves one’s luck with getting a decent doctor. There were dozens of plastic surgeons who specialized in doing breast implants in the D/FW area. I focused on the few who emphasized post-mastectomy breast reconstruction. I looked for board certifications and went with the woman doctor because I felt a woman would better understand the way a woman feels about her breasts as well as understand how I had years of problems with the implants.

      She was good. Got the goddamned things out of me cleaned up the sketchy tissue and left me with breasts.

      Several male plastic surgeons I had talked to over the years seemed almost offended that I wanted to get rid of them.

      Dr. Laub’s office was pretty bad on this because they acted like I was questioning or had regrets about my SRS.


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