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Wanda Sykes: I Had a Double Mastectomy

Wanda Sykes Breast Cancer Surgery
Wanda Sykes and Ellen DeGeneres
Michael Rozman/Warner Bros.

updated 09/23/2011 AT 12:00 PM EDT

originally published 09/23/2011 AT 07:30 AM EDT

Wanda Sykes being outrageous – that's expected. But for the actress-comedian to be serious? That's rare. Even when the issue is personal.

In this case, it was also health-related, when she admitted for the first time, to Ellen DeGeneres during an interview to air Monday on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, that earlier this year she had breast cancer and then elected to have a mastectomy.

"I had breast cancer," says Sykes, 47. "Yeah, I know it's scary."

The cancer was found after she had undergone what was essentially a cosmetic procedure, to have a breast reduction.



"This was in February. I went for the 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," she quips. "My back was sore so it was time to have a reduction."

She continues, "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."

A Bilateral Mastectomy

As she is quick to point out, "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."

On top of which, "I have a lot of breast cancer history on my mother's side of the family."

This latter fact prompted Sykes to reach a dramatic decision, "to have a bilateral mastectomy," she says. "I had both breasts removed … because now I have zero chance of having breast cancer."

Explaining her choice, she says, "It sounds scary up front, but what do you want? Do you want to wait and not be as fortunate when it comes back and it’s too late?"

When it came to speaking out about her past few months, Sykes, the mother of nearly 2½-year-old twins with her wife, Alex, tells the talk-show host, "I was like, I don't know, should I talk about it or what? How many things could I have? I'm Black, then Lesbian. I can't be the poster child for everything."

With a laugh, she notes, "At least with the LGBT issues we get a parade, we get a float, it's a party. [But] I was real hesitant about doing this, because I hate walking. I got a lot of [cancer] walks coming up."

As DeGeneres states, "I just admire the hell out of you."
MORE ON: Ellen DeGeneres

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