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.
When 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. And Deutsch says there’s some evidence that the testosterone some trans men take can cause remaining breast tissue to “involute,” becoming smaller and less functional. This, she says, could further reduce the risk of cancer.
So while Beth Scott will get her mammogram, it may be some time before she and other transgender women know their true risk of contracting breast cancer.
Please validate your account to contribute content.
Preview Your Response
- itsthecolleenlife thinks Why Transgender Women's Breast Ca... is OMG
I feel like this piece puts the blame on researchers when actually I think society’s ignorance on trans issues that’s the bigger problem.
most researchers actually are at the mercy of institutions that issue grants such as NIH; these organizations largely are interested in groundbreaking research that helps or interests a larger audience. To be quite frank, they’re going to try to tackle the “obesity” problems or heart problems before any money trickles down to trans-specific health issues. it’s not like researchers don’t care about transpeople, you have to realize that to stay relevant and continue earning a paycheck they’re going to be submitting proposals for shit that is more likely to get funded.
Funding is actually at the sway of public opinion and politics believe it or not, not just whatever tickles our fancy. you have people like sarah palin bitching about tax money spent on research in “fruit flies” (could she really get dumber, like really?) when drosophila studies are like status quo so it already shows a reluctance of the public to spend money in science on things they don’t care about or understand. these organizations are going to be reluctant to give out thousands, if not millions of dollars to trans specific studies even if they’re relevant. it’s not as easy as asking for a martyr who has enough courage to address the issue, it’s about swaying the public policy so these studies can get funded.
- reddit.com readers just made Why Transgender Women's Breast Ca... hotter
- mutilated56 thinks Why Transgender Women's Breast Ca... is OMG
- KillJoy Why Transgender Women's Breast Ca...
- benr11 Why Transgender Women's Breast Ca... and thinks it’s Fail
- Penetration Why Transgender Women's Breast Ca... and thinks it’s Fail
- drewha thinks Why Transgender Women's Breast Ca... is Fail
- Why Transgender Women's Breast Ca... is starting to get hot on Facebook Share It