Olivia Focuses on the Good Through Cancer
- Aussie actress and singer Olivia Newton-John says in a recent interview that she feels “lucky,” despite her ongoing breast cancer battle; she credits cannabis with helping her manage her pain.
- 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 spoke with NBC’s TODAY show on Wednesday and told host Hoda Kotb, who has also battled breast cancer, that she’s “feeling pretty good.” The Aussie actress also shared how she’s feeling optimistic about her disease.Read More
Olivia admitted that she has her days when things aren’t all rosy, too. “I have my days, I have my pains,” she tells TODAY. She credits the cannabis grown by her husband with helping her to heal and feel better. “I’m a really lucky person,” says Olivia.
There’s currently no cure for metastatic breast cancer. When someone is diagnosed with this type of advanced care, which has spread to other areas of the body, doctors primarily focus on maintenance – preventing further spread of the cancer.
Olivia Newton-John Speaks with SurvivorNet
Olivia’s Breast Cancer Journey
Olivia, 73, currently has advanced-stage breast cancer (stage 4). 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. She 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,” says Dr. Partridge.
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.”