they used to be. Clinical trials of the drug Tamoxifen are underway to see if that can play a role in preventing women like Shirley from developing cancer.
Most of the women in her family developed cancer by the age of 45 and were dead by the age of 50.
She is planning to go in a double mastectomy before the beast can fell her.
"I'm tired of preparing for death," she says. She is due to have surgery to remove her breasts and a reconstruction in the next few months.
She's been told that this move will dramatically reverse the odds for her - without the surgery there is a 90 per cent chance she will develop breast cancer; with it, there is a 90-per-cent chance she won't.
"My family have tried to dissuade me. They think that illness comes directly from God and that you shouldn't play around with God's work," she says.
But McQueen firmly believes that more can be done to reverse the horrible fate of women like herself, and that awareness needs to be raised about breast cancer, particularly in the black community. Regular breast checks, screening and, in cases like hers, preventative mastectomies should all be considered, she says.
A study by Breast Cancer Care found that out of 1,633 women surveyed, 43 per cent of women from ethnic minorities didn't check their breasts compared with 11 per cent of the rest. She is particularly concerned to make younger women more proactive about protecting themselves from breast cancer because she knows how devastating it is for children to grow up without a mother.
While the prospect of six hours on the operating table fills McQueen with trepidation, she is not traumatised by the prospect of losing her breasts.
"In Europe white women look at breasts as sexual things but black women look at them more as something maternal, as a comforter for a child. For us the bottom is more sexual. As far as I'm concerned mPage: 1 2 3 4 Related medicine news :1
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