As guitar-master, Eddie Van Halen, 65, battles throat cancer, his wife Janie — a ballroom dancer — has shared uplifting posts on Instagram. But her recent film footage, featuring her dance partner, Louie Martinez, hints at an upcoming project in the works: “I love #directing #promoproject #comingsoon #blackandwhite Starring @dncnlouie.”
Janie Liszewski Van Halen, became Van Halen’s publicist in 2007. The couple married on June 27, 2009.
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Meanwhile, Van Halen’s son and band member, Wolfgang, responded to fans asking when the band would tour again. The questions came after a 5-year-old tweet asking for set-list requests was circulated by eager fans in recent days. “Really speaks to how hopeful many people are for another tour,” a fan who goes by “Trans Halen” tweeted at Wolf.
“True and I see that,” Wolf tweeted back. “but considering we’re in a global pandemic and touring ain’t happening for a while it might be a little too hopeful.“
Fans remain hopeful they’ll see Eddie Van Halen shred the guitar once again. But the legendary rocker’s last public comment was a May 8 birthday wish to his brother, Alex, the band’s drummer.
Eddie Van Halen’s Throat Cancer
After his original diagnosis of tongue cancer in 2000, Van Halen underwent surgery to remove the cancer along with roughly a third of his tongue. Though he was declared cancer-free in 2002, Newser reported that the singer “occasionally had cancer cells scraped out of his throat after they migrated there.”
Sources have also told the celebrity news site TMZ, which reported in November that Van Halen was hospitalized for several days for abdominal pain — a suspected treatment side-effect — said Van Halen has been flying to Germany to receive radiation treatment for his throat cancer for five years. It is unclear why Van Halen is being treated in Germany as opposed to somewhere closer to Los Angeles, where he now lives.
“The vast majority of humans in the U.S. will eventually get infected with human papillomavirus,” says Dr. Allen S. Ho is a head and neck surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
HPV and Throat Cancer
The human papillomavirus, more commonly known as HPV, is transmitted through sexual contact. While many people are aware of the connection between HPV and cervical cancer, far fewer know that it can cause oral and throat cancers.
Cancers in the back of the throat are often caused by tobacco and alcohol, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but recent studies have indicated that as many as 60-70% of these throat cancers may be linked to HPV – or caused by a combination of HPV, alcohol, and tobacco.
Eddie Van Halen on Jimmy Kimmel Live in 2015.
“There are no screening guidelines to screen for throat cancer, unlike cervical cancer with pap smears,” says Dr. Jessica Geiger, a medical oncologist at Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center. “There are no standard tests to determine if you harbor the virus.”
On the plus side, HPV-related throat cancers are generally very responsive to a combination of radiation and chemotherapy treatments, according to Dr. Geiger. “The cure rates for people who have HPV-related disease are a lot higher than those who have tobacco-related throat cancer.”
“HPV related throat cancer generally is very responsive to treatment with radiation and chemotherapyhroat cancer, unlike cervical cancer with pap smears,” says Dr. Jessica Geiger, a medical oncologist at Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center.
On the plus side, HPV-related throat cancers are generally very responsive to a combination of radiation and chemotherapy treatments, according to Dr. Geiger.
“The cure rates for people who have HPV-related disease are a lot higher than those who have tobacco-related throat cancer.”
Van Halen’s Own Cancer Theory: Guitar Picks
Van Halen theorizes that years of putting copper and brass guitar picks in his mouth caused his throat cancer. “I used metal picks—they’re brass and copper—which I always held in my mouth, in the exact place where I got the tongue cancer,” he previously told Billboard.
“Plus, I basically live in a recording studio that’s filled with electromagnetic energy. So that’s one theory. I mean, I was smoking and doing a lot of drugs and a lot of everything. But at the same time, my lungs are totally clear. This is just my own theory, but the doctors say it’s possible.”
Treatment Options for Throat Cancer
“In early-stage throat cancer, the cancer is confined to just what we call the primary tumor in the back of the throat or the tonsils, or the base of the tongue,” said Dr. Geiger. “
But if the PET scan shows that the cancer has moved to the lungs or the liver, then our approach would not be to cure cancer but to treat it and to keep it under control,” she says. “It’s really complicated because there are three stage 4s. It’s not like breast cancer where, once you’re Stage 4, you’re incurable,” she continues.
“In more advanced throat cancer cases, which is actually the most common stage that we see,” she adds, “in addition to the primary tumor, lymph nodes of the neck are involved.”
“Patients who have disease that has spread outside of the head and neck region, meaning below the clavicles, into the lungs or into the liver, we call that distant metastatic disease and by definition, those patients are considered incurable,” she continues, “So our efforts at treatment would be focused on palliative therapy, controlling the disease but, unfortunately, not curing it.”