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Shirley Temple: Breast Cancer Activist

Shirley Temple Black was one of the first famous women to speak publicly about her breast cancer experience

When she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1972, Shirley Temple Black was one of the first celebrities to talk about the disease in the public eye.

Temple Black was a child star who started her acting career at age 3, hitting her peak popularity at age 10 as the star of "Little Miss Marker," "The Little Princess" and "Heidi." According to Biography, after winning the hearts of adults and children alike and winning an Academy Award for "Outstanding Personality of 1934," her acting career waned and she went on to become a diplomat.

The former actress was a U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Ghana and Czechoslovakia, and even Chief of Protocol of the U.S. from 1974-1977. 

Temple Black's fame put her in the spotlight when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1972, at age 44. She underwent a mastectomy of her left breast, which she later referred to as an amputation. According to Newsmax, the former actress was one of the first celebrities to talk about any sort of physical ailment in public. 

When she underwent the surgery, the star received over 50,000 fan letters of appreciation and well-wishes. 

The former actress wrote "Don't sit home and be afraid," an article in McCalls magazine in 1973, about her experience with cancer. She assured women that they should look for signs of cancer and immediately go to a doctor if necessary. Temple Black stated she believed there is a cure for the disease and that it can be stopped if caught soon enough. 

According to the Journal of Women's Health, when doctors found a lump in the former actress's left breast, she chose to have a biopsy before having a mastectomy. At the time this was nearly unheard of: most doctors just encouraged women to have a mastectomy if there was any sign of cancer.

The actress went into remission and lived the remainder of her life as a passionate advocate for breast cancer awareness. She passed away on February 10th, 2014 at age 85.

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