Nixon Reflects on Beating Breast Cancer
- Actress Cynthia Nixon is currently starring in And Just Like That… the new reboot of Sex and the City; Nixon was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002.
- Since beating stage 1 breast cancer, she continues to thrive; Nixon is also vigilant about her mammograms.
- Lesbian and bisexual women may have an increased risk for certain cancers, such as breast, cervical, and ovarian cancer, compared to heterosexual women, due to factors like screening discrepancies and fear of discrimination.
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“I was much less scared because I understood they caught it very early.”
In a new interview with Parade, Nixon reflects on how cancer profoundly altered her life. She says, “My mother had breast cancer when I was 13, and she survived. When I was diagnosed, my wife—who was not my wife at the time because there wasn’t yet gay marriage in New York—went into shock about it. She was really scared. I was much less scared because I understood they caught it very early.”
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Nixon explains how the cancer hadn’t spread to other parts of her body, saying, “It hadn’t metastasized at all. And it was in this one very local, small place. Because of not only my mother’s experience, but also my mother’s attitude, I viewed it with caution,” says Nixon. “I had a lumpectomy and six-and-a-half weeks of radiation. Then I was on Tamoxifen, hormone therapy, for five years. I did all the things advised for me to do, but I tried my best to keep my fear to a minimum.”
Nixon’s Breast Cancer Journey
Nixon found a lump in her breast in 2002, which is how her cancer was discovered. As she detailed to Parade, throughout the cancer journey, Nixon was relatively relaxed, and later shared that she didn’t think the lump – despite being cancer – was a big deal. Having a calm, positive attitude through cancer can help the process be smoother for some people.
Doctors informed Nixon that the tumor found in her breast was stage 1 breast cancer. In a previous interview, Nixon recalls how, “The doctor said the tumor was so small, he wouldn’t have even noticed it except for the fact that it wasn’t there on previous X-rays. I’ve learned that if you catch breast cancer early, the chances are overwhelmingly good that you’ll be cured. So my attitude, which very much mirrored my mother’s, was this wasn’t a big deal.”
Nixon began having mammograms at age 35 because of her mother’s breast cancer. As she detailed, Cynthia treated her stage 1 breast cancer with a lumpectomy and six-and-a-half weeks of radiation.
Gay People & Cancer Incidences
Lesbian and bisexual women may have an increased risk for certain cancers, such as breast, cervical, and ovarian cancer, compared to heterosexual women, says the ACS. The ACS also outlines how some gay and bisexual women may get fewer routine health check-ups than heterosexual women. And this includes fewer cancer screening procedures like mammograms, pap smears, and colonoscopies.
There are several reasons which may account for this discrepancy in regular check-ups and screenings. The ACS counts among these reasons the following:
- Lower rates of health insurance; some insurance policies don’t cover unmarried partners so this makes it more difficult for many lesbian and bi women to get quality health care.
- Fear of discrimination about their sexuality.
- Negative experiences with a healthcare provider, and fear of a repeat incident.
Dr. Gillian Hsieh, a gynecologic oncologist at Sutter Bay Medical Foundation, explained that there’s not definitive data on whether or not gay women are at a higher risk for ovarian cancer, “but I would speculate that it could be correlated.”
“The reason why it could be correlated is that gay and lesbian women may not have the same number of children as a heterosexual women. And we know that childbearing, having two children reduces your risk of getting ovarian cancer by about 20%. Also, I would speculate, and I don’t know this to be true that gay and lesbian women may have less use for contraception because they are not trying to prevent pregnancy typically and we know that five-year use of combination contraception reduces your risk of ovarian cancer by 50%. We also know that tubal ligation, which is not probably something that a gay or lesbian couple would use, reduces your risk by one third.”