Normani discusses her mother’s breast cancer battle, urges early detection

In an op-ed in Elle magazine, the "Wild Side" singer gets real about detecting the early signs of breast cancer and why knowing family history is vital.

Normani felt “helpless” when her mother Andrea Hamilton was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time in 2020. The experience also quickly became her “worst nightmare.”

In an op-ed in Elle magazine published in tandem with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the singer gives readers a brief but intimate look at what it’s been like to support her mother through her ongoing breast cancer journey, which began 19 years ago when Normani was just 5 years old.

“When I was visiting my mom at home, she’d fallen into my arms expressing how scared she was. She had a gut feeling about the results,” writes Normani. “I felt incredibly helpless because I wasn’t able to cure her. I could not change the circumstances.” 

Normani, whose mother has been diagnosed with breast cancer that is now in remission, says preventive measures such as regularly performing at-home breast screenings can be potentially lifesaving. (Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images for Diesel)

Normani also said initially she had to cope with the news alone, thousands of miles away in Los Angeles while her mother and the rest of her family were back in her native Houston. 

“My mother and I couldn’t hold each other the way we both needed to. That day was my worst nightmare,” she said. 

Thankfully, Hamilton has been in remission since August of 2021 — an update Normani gave in a tweet last year. In her Elle op-ed, Normani notes how preventive measures such as regularly performing at-home breast screenings were potentially lifesaving in her mother’s prognosis. 

“I watched my mother find her own lumps both times she had breast cancer,” Normani writes. “She taught me the importance of looking out for changes in your breasts and educated me on what mammograms were at an early age.” 

Normani said her mother’s diagnosis raised her awareness about how crucial early detection is. Clinicians agree that recognizing the early signs of breast cancer can be life-saving — and is particularly important for Black women, who are at extreme risk and can face systemic barriers to being diagnosed.  

According to the American Cancer Society, Black women — despite diagnoses at similar or slightly lower rates than their white counterparts — are 41 percent more likely to die from breast cancer. Black women also die from breast cancer more than any other kind of cancer.  

The CDC found in 2019 that for every 100,000 women, 125.4 Black women had breast cancer. It is higher for white women at 130.3 per 100,000; 73.1 for American Indian and Alaskan Native women,103.1 for Asian and Pacific Islander women and 101.9 for Hispanic women. 

The American Cancer Society reports that Black people are more likely to die from most cancers and to live the shortest amount of time after a cancer diagnosis compared with any other racial/ethnic group. Knowing your family history can help you better understand your risk. 

With that in mind, Normani, an American Cancer Society Global Ambassador, stressed investigating family history in the op-ed. 

“I also encourage anyone who has a family member with cancer to see that your family talks to a doctor about genetic testing. We have taken these measures as a family. Knowledge is power, so whatever you don’t know, don’t be afraid to ask,” she said.

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