In 1991, Susan Shinagawa noticed a lump in her breast during her monthly self-exam. Her mammogram came out negative, but a sonogram revealed that the lump was a solid mass. The first doctor diagnosed Susan with fibrocystic breast disease -- lumpy breasts -- and refused to do a biopsy because "Asian women don't get breast cancer." The second doctor also diagnosed Susan with lumpy breasts and said: “I can tell you with 99.9 percent certainty that you do not have breast cancer.” This time Susan insisted on the biopsy and was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer and opted for a modified radical mastectomy of her right breast and six months of chemotherapy. Ten years later, a routine mammogram revealed that Susan had an unrelated breast cancer in her left breast, for which she underwent a second mastectomy.
Susan is still in active treatment and has become one of the nation’s leading Asian breast cancer activists. Susan helped co-found the Asian & Pacific Islander National Cancer Survivors Network (APINCSN). To this day, Susan still meets Asian women (mostly young) diagnosed with breast cancer who were initially told by their healthcare providers that “Asian women don’t get breast cancer.”