Just weeks after news circulated that Eddie Van Halen was being treated for throat cancer, the famous rocker’s wife, Janie Van Halen, has shared news of her own cancer scare.
“For the past few years, my doctor has been monitoring abnormal nodules on my thyroid,” Janie Van Halen, 49, wrote in the caption to a selfie she posted to Instagram. “Yesterday I was finally cleared and told they have not grown/changed and are not cancerous. I am so relieved and grateful. #thankfulthursday”
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For the past few years my doctor has been monitoring abnormal nodules on my thyroid. Yesterday I was finally cleared and told they have not grown/changed and are not cancerous. I am so relieved and grateful. #thankfulthursday
Following the news of Eddie’s throat cancer, Van Halen fans have shared an outpouring of support on social media. Now, many are expressing relief and prayers for Janie, too.
“Oh that is such wonderful news, Janie! It’s like getting a second chance,” one follower commented on Janie’s Instagram post. “Enjoy every minute of your life! It truly is a gift.”
‘Abnormal Thyroid Nodules’ and Janie Van Halen’s Cancer Risk
Thyroid nodules — lumps that develop on the hormone-producing thyroid gland — are exceedingly common. By age 60, about one-half of all people have a thyroid nodule that can be found either through examination or with imaging, according to the American Thyroid Association. The vast majority of thyroid nodules (about 90%) turn out to be benign, but in rare cases, they can be cancerous.
Ultrasounds and fine-needle biopsies help doctors evaluate the nodules, but 15% to 30% of the time these tests are inconclusive or “suspicious.” In these cases, a surgical biopsy (removing part or all of the thyroid gland and sending the nodules to pathology) is needed to determine whether the nodules are cancerous. Recent research has shown that inconclusive tests have paved the way for an increase in unnecessary (and costly) surgeries to rule out cancer; accordingly, there is a need for improved (non-surgical) diagnostic methods for thyroid cancer.
“Currently, ultrasounds can tell us if a nodule looks suspicious, and then the decision is made whether to do a needle biopsy or not,” Dr. Elizabeth Cottril, an otolaryngologist at Thomas Jefferson University, said in a news release about a recent study examining the potential for using artificial intelligence to assess thyroid ultrasounds. “But fine-needle biopsies only act as a peephole, they don’t tell us the whole picture. As a result, some biopsies return inconclusive results for whether or not the nodule may be malignant, or cancerous, in other words.”
Janie Van Halen did not elaborate in her post about the types of diagnostic tests and procedures her doctor used.
Janie (previously Janie Liszewski) is the second wife of Eddie Van Halen, the co-founder and lead guitarist of rock band Van Halen. The two married a decade ago, after Eddie and his first wife, Valerie Bertinelli divorced. (They have a son, now-fellow Van Halen bandmate Wolfgang Van Halen). A professional dancer and founder of the agency High Profile Media (which represents high-profile and emerging artists), Janie is also immersed in showbiz.
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Eddie Van Halen’s Cancer Journey
For the last several years, Eddie Van Halen, 64, has been traveling to Germany to undergo treatment for throat cancer, sources close to the rocker recently told TMZ. While Eddie has not shared specifics about the type of treatment he’s been receiving, he has spoken openly about what he believes to be the cause of his throat cancer, which was originally tongue cancer.
In an interview with Billboard, he posited that the metal guitar picks he’s been holding in his mouth for decades during performances. This is unlikely, however, given as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) do not classify copper or the metals in brass (an alloy comprised of copper and zinc) as carcinogenic (cancer-causing) to humans.
The cancer diagnosis is more likely related to Van Halen’s lifelong smoking habit, as he told Billboard during the same interview that he began smoking cigarettes when he was 12 years old.
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“I was an alcoholic, and I needed alcohol to function… I started drinking and smoking when I was 12. I got drunk before I’d show up to high school,” Van Halen said, adding that the reason he doesn’t credit his cancer to smoking is that, despite his throat cancer, his “lungs are totally clear.”
It is possible, however, to develop throat or tongue cancer from smoking without the disease appearing in the lungs.
According to the American Cancer Society, “Tobacco and alcohol use are two of the strongest risk factors for oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers.” (Oropharyngeal cancers meaning cancers of the mouth, tongue, or throat.) The more often that cigarette smoke comes into contact with the tongue and throat, the more damage occurs to the DNA in these cells. Each time that a cell repairs its DNA, there’s a risk of developing a cancerous mutation.
Because this cycle of cell damage and repair happens in the mouth and throat as well as the lungs, Eddie Van Halen’s throat cancer could indeed be related to his smoking habit even though he doesn’t have lung cancer.