Actress Vanessa Bell Calloway Shares Her Breast Cancer Story

Actress Vanessa Bell Calloway Shares Her Breast Cancer Story


– Each year, more than 300,000 Americans are diagnosed with breast cancer. Actress, Vanessa Bell
Calloway was one of them. – Most people know me as an actress, and some know me as a
producer and a director, but what a lot of people don’t know, is that I was a dancer. Being healthy is very important to me. I eat right, I’ve exercised for years, and being married to a doctor, of course, health is very important in our home. I get my mammograms yearly. I’ve started at the age of forty, and I’ve always done everything right. I was shocked at the
diagnosis of breast cancer. – Vanessa Bell Calloway is a
stage, TV, and film actress. She was one of the original cast members of Broadway’s Dream Girls, and co-starred in films alongside Eddie
Murphy, Angela Bassett, and Denzel Washington. She’s currently starring
in the television drama Saints and Sinners. Please welcome Vanessa Bell Calloway and Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall, Chief
Medical Officer of Pfizer. A warm welcome to both of you. – And, Vanessa, thank you
so much for being here. It is so very important for
us to keep awareness going about breast cancer. – It is. – Breast cancer is the most common cancer behind skin cancer, and
the second leading cause of cancer death in women
in the United States. – And, with this disease,
cells in the breast tissue grow out of control, and can form a tumor that may be felt as a lump. By the time a lump is large
enough to feel, though, it may have been growing
for as long as 10 years. – But, a lump doesn’t always have to be the first indicator of breast cancer. That was the case with you, wasn’t it? – Dr. Freda, that was my case. I had no symptoms whatsoever. I had felt perfectly fine,
and at my yearly mammogram, I was diagnosed with DCIS. – DCIS is an overgrowth
of cells in the lining of the breast milk duct,
and is non-invasive. When cancer spreads from the
duct to other breast tissue, it’s then considered invasive. – Yeah, this kind of
cancer occurs in about one in every five cases of breast cancer, and, as Vanessa told us
earlier, it may not have a lump, which means it could be missed on a routine breast examination. With other cancers,
they may change the size or the shape of your breast. They may also cause dimpling,
so you want to look out for that, or retraction of the nipple, or scaliness and redness in the nipple, or elsewhere in the breast. And then, last but no
least, if there’s a fluid that’s leaking from the nipple
that is not breast milk, you want to pay attention to that as well. – Thankfully, you caught
your cancer early. Tell us how you were diagnosed. – Well, I was a couple
months behind on my mammogram because I was working, and when I finally got to my mammogram, and
I saw the x-ray myself, and there was something
that told me overwhelmingly that that was going to be cancer. I had a lumpectomy. Well, the margins weren’t clear, and then my doctor had me go back and do a second lumpectomy
just days after. Unfortunately, the margins
still weren’t clear. So, we decided that the
mastectomy was best. It was a skin-sparing
mastectomy, which took away everything, the nipple included, which had saved the skin, and I’m
so happy that I did it. It just wasn’t worth trying
to save that breast after all. (audience applauds) – You know, every woman is
gonna have to make decisions about her treatment
because treatments vary from woman to woman, as
the cancer is diagnosed, and it’ll depend on the type
of cancer, the stage, etc. So, early detection and diagnosis is key. You should know your risk factors. One of them is the family
history of breast cancer. So, women who have a family
history of breast cancer can have a doubled risk
of getting breast cancer. That risk can triple if you
have two close relatives that had breast cancer. So, it’s important to
know your family history, and to make sure your doctor knows your family history as well. – The majority of breast
cancers are diagnosed after the age of 50, but
Vanessa, how old were you? – [Vanessa] I was 52. – So, you were 52, which
is one of the risk factors from age standpoint, but
another risk factor is race. Although white women get
breast cancer more often, so they’re more likely to get it. Black women are more likely
to die from breast cancer. So, this seems to be
because we get diagnosed at later stages. The other important thing
to do is getting genotyped when you’re diagnosed,
so the right treatment can be determined is also very important. In terms of screening, the
American Cancer Society recommends that every woman gets routine breast examinations, and
women between the ages of 45 and 54 should get annual mammograms, and, once you’re 55,
it’s every other year. – Men can get breast cancer as well. It’s very rare, but if you’re a man, and notice symptoms, get it checked out. Now, Vanessa, before we
go, I’ve heard that you found a way to turn lemons into lemonade. Tell us about that. – Well, I got a lap, what they call a lap. They took a little fat from my stomach, and they made the breasts. So, not only did I get a new
breast with my own tissue, I got a tummy tuck to boot. (audience applauds) – And you, may I say, look fabulous. – Thank you, I feel fabulous. And, I am eight years cancer free. I just had my mammogram. (audience cheers) The one good breast that
I got left is still good. – For more resources,
of course, you can go to GetHealthyStayHealthy.com. So, there’s a lot. There are a lot of tools and resources for people who are affected by cancer. So, we try to collect some of those on GetHealthyStayHealthy.com, along with more information
about breast cancer. Of course, while you’re
there, you can sign up for our newsletter and
get information on health sent directly to you.