Stand-up comic and actress Wanda Sykes told Ellen DeGeneres that she asked doctors to remove both of her breasts when they discovered she had a ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS – a growth that can sometimes lead to invasive breast cancer.
According to a Reuters report on Friday, Sykes told DeGeneres doctors made the discovery while performing lab work after her breast reduction procedure.
“Do you want to wait and not be as fortunate when it comes back and it’s too late?” Sykes said.
The interview will air on Monday’s ”Ellen” show.
Sykes is not the first celebrity to have a bilateral mastectomy in the face of a breast cancer threat. In 2008, actress Christina Applegate underwent a similar procedure after doctors found breast cancer and she tested positive for the breast cancer gene BRCA.
Sykes told DeGeneres a family history of breast cancer was also part of her motivation to undergo the procedure. However, removal of both breasts is not the normal course of treatment for DCIS – a condition some doctors term “stage zero” breast cancer.
“DCIS is not considered cancer but rather a precancerous or noninvasive condition,” explained Dr. Susan Love, a breast cancer specialist and president of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation. “As such it does not have the potential to kill you.”
Love said that, according to the few studies that have been conducted, DCIS has a 30 to 50 percent chance of developing into an invasive cancer if left untreated – which means that in at least half of women, it will never develop into full-blown cancer. It may even disappear.
Still, Love said that the best approach regarding treatment is an individual decision – particularly since there is currently no way to determine which DCIS will progress into cancer and which will not.
“Any individual needs to weigh all this and decide for herself what treatment is the best for her,” Love said. “Obviously Wanda Sykes made a considered opinion.”
Love also noted that even a bilateral mastectomy does not completely eliminate the chances of developing breast cancer, as some breast tissue may still be left behind.