Olivia Stays Positive Through Cancer
- Aussie actress Olivia Newton-John, 73, remains positive while battling stage 4 breast cancer. She’s also an advocate for the use of medical marijuana.
- Newton-John was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992.
- Breast cancer is typically detected via mammogram, which looks for lumps in the breast tissue and signs of cancer.
Olivia’s Breast Cancer Battle
Newton-John currently has advanced-stage breast cancer. The Aussie singer was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992. To treat her cancer, she had chemotherapy and a partial mastectomy (surgical removal of cancerous breast tissue). In 2017, Newton-John’s cancer returned and it had spread to other parts of her body, so she had radiation therapy to treat it.
A mastectomy is the removal of the entire breast during surgery. There are different factors to weigh when considering a mastectomy; chief among them is whether breast-conserving surgery (or, a lumpectomy) is possible.
In an earlier interview, Dr. Ann Partridge, an oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, explains the process for determining whether or not a woman should have a mastectomy to treat her breast cancer. The doctor says, “So when I talk to a woman who comes to me and she has breast cancer, I evaluate what the standard options for treatment for her are, which typically include cutting out the cancer– which is either a lumpectomy if you can get it all with just a little scooping around of the area that’s abnormal or a mastectomy for some women meaning taking the full breast because sometimes these lesions can be very extensive in the breast.”
“And I’ll talk to a woman about that and I’ll say these are two main options or the big fork in the road,” she says.
Using Medical Marijuana Through Cancer
Newton-John is an advocate for the use of medical marijuana through cancer. Cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, can have a number of unpleasant side effects, such as fatigue, pain, loss of appetite, and hair loss.
Marijuana can help mitigate some of the pain and loss of appetite that may accompany chemotherapy. In an earlier interview, integrative cannabis physician Dr. Junella Chen says, “Medical cannabis, if you think about it, it’s the only botanical medicine that can help nausea, increase appetite, decrease pain, and elevate mood.”
“Chemotherapy patient usually comes to see me if they have nausea, if they have decreased appetite, if they have pain, if they have insomnia, and if they’re depressed,” explains Dr. Chen.
Screening for Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is typically detected via mammogram, which looks for lumps in the breast tissue and signs of cancer. Women with an average risk of breast cancer, who have no family history of the disease and no incidence of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, should get annual mammograms between the ages of 45 to 54. Women with a higher risk of the disease should begin screening earlier.
In a previous interview, Dr. Connie Lehman, chief of the Breast Imaging Division at Massachusetts General Hospital, emphasizes the importance of screening. She says, “If you haven’t gone through menopause yet, I think it’s very important that you have a mammogram every year. We know that cancers grow more rapidly in our younger patients, and having that annual mammogram can be lifesaving.”
“After menopause, it may be perfectly acceptable to reduce that frequency to every two years,” says Dr. Lehman. “But what I’m most concerned about is the women who haven’t been in for a mammogram for two, three, or four years, those women that have never had a mammogram. We all agree regular screening mammography saves lives.”