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Diahann Carroll Once Opened up about the Painful Moment She Got Her Cancer Diagnosis

Manuela Cardiga
Sep 10, 2021
03:15 A.M.
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Legendary actress Diahann Caroll once opened up about her experience with breast cancer and her mission to alert other women about the disease.

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Diahann Caroll was a legendary Broadway and TV actress. She is an icon to millions and was the first African American woman to win a Tony Award. However, what most fans didn't know is that Caroll was also a breast cancer survivor.

Opening up about her struggles with her illness, she once shared she did not want anyone to know about her diagnosis. However, when she was 83, Caroll was determined to fulfill what she considers to be her mission and her responsibility: to alert other women to the deadly danger of breast cancer.

Diahann Carroll and Sidney Poitier during a scene from the movie "Paris Blues" in 1961 | Source: Getty Images

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DIAHANN CAROLL'S BREAST CANCER DIAGNOSIS

In 1993, Caroll underwent a routine mammogram during which doctors detected a small lump in her breast. For Caroll, breast cancer was a complete shock, as there had never been a history of the disease in her family. She said:

“I was absolutely positive that it would never be a part of my life ever. There was no family history. There was not even dialogue about cancer in my family."

Diahann Carroll at the Washington Hotel in London, October 25, 1957 | Source: Getty Images

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GOING PUBLIC FOR THE GREATER GOOD

Caroll realized that her fame would help her reach other women who might be at risk and alert them to the need for vigilance and a yearly mammogram to aid in the early detection of breast cancer.

The actress was involved in intense contact with the African American and Hispanic communities, speaking face to face groups in these communities about the importance of early detection and prevention.

Diahann Carroll accepts the honor of the Mary Pickford Award from the Hollywood Chamber's Hollywood Community Foundation | Getty Images

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THE ILLNESS IN AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN

Scientific studies have revealed that although African-American women face a lower risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer, they are more likely to die of the disease. 

As African American women, Hispanic women are likely to be diagnosed at the late stages of the disease, which reduces their survival rate. They are also likely to develop breast cancer at a much younger age.

Diahann Carroll photographed in the UK on January 18, 1965 | Source: Getty Images

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THE RETURN OF HER CANCER

While she was in remission for years, Carroll's cancer came back, and on October 4, 2019, she died of complications from the illness. Her daughter, Suzanne Kay, confirmed the news.

Suzzanne is Carroll's daughter with the late Monte Kay. She graduated from Columbia School of Journalism and worked as a writer and editor for numerous companies. She ultimately created her own production company called Wonder View Films with her ex-husband Mark Bamford. 

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REMEMBERING DIAHANN CAROLL

Born Carol Diahann Johnson on July 17, 1935, in the Bronx, New York, she went on to attend Manhattan's School of Performing Arts and work at a nightclub as a singer and model. 

She made her Broadway debut in "The House of Flowers" in 1954 and appeared in a couple of films before being nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role on "Claudine." 

Diahann Carroll and Sidney Poitier at the 36th Annual NAACP Image Awards on March 19, 2005 | Source: Getty Images

In 1968, she rose to stardom after being cast as the lead on "Julia." The role made her the first African American woman to star in her very own TV series. She was nominated for an Emmy for the show in 1969 and won a Golden Globe Award in 1968. 

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