Apr 9, 2015

Interview Transcript

Interviewer: A cancer expert's take on Taylor Swifts' mom's cancer. And the take away message from this story. That's coming up next on The Scope.

Announcer: Medical news and research from the University of Utah physicians and specialists you can use, for a happier and healthier life. You're listening to The Scope.

Interviewer: Taylor Swift announced on social media today that her mother has been diagnosed with cancer. Other than, that they're not really saying a whole lot of what's going on and we wanted to find out, perhaps, what type of cancer she might have.

Another interesting part of the story is, apparently Taylor had talked to her mom about going to get a screening, had actually kind of hassled her into it. And now as a result they may have caught the cancer in time.

Dr. Theresa Werner is a medical oncologist, I mean, she is a women's cancer expert at Huntsman Cancer Institute. First of all, any thoughts as to what type of cancer a 57-year-old woman might have had. I understand you don't have any medical history into that sort of thing.

Dr. Werner: Well if we look at the most common cancers in women in the United States, breast cancer is the number one cancer that we see in women. Lung cancer is the second most common and colorectal would be the third most common type of cancer.

So I would think that those are all likely cancers in someone who is in there late 50s.

Interviewer: Yeah. And she also said that her mom didn't have any symptoms as well, felt perfectly healthy. So they were kind of surprised. Does that lead you into any other conclusions?

Dr. Werner: Yeah, I mean hopefully that's a good sign. That if someone is asymptomatic and doesn't have symptoms, that perhaps the cancer is early. But that's a good message, for everyone to know, that you can have cancer and still not have any symptoms.

So it really is a good idea to go in and get checked on a regular basis, have a physical exam by your primary care physician. If you think about someone who's healthy and goes in for a regular exam, perhaps they felt a breast mass or perhaps she had a cough or they heard something on lung exam that would have prompted additional testing.

A woman in their 50s, she should have had a colonoscopy by now. She should have had a mammogram by now. Those kinds of things.

Interviewer: What ages should you have those particular tests?

Dr. Werner: Yeah, that's a really good question. We recommend that everyone start having a colonoscopy at age 50 and depending on what they find, will determine the interval of how often you should have a colonoscopy. Obviously, if you have any concerning symptoms of bleeding, or abnormal stools, you should have a colonoscopy earlier, or if you have a family history.

For breast cancer, there's a little bit of debate on how early you should have a mammogram. Pretty much routinely, all agencies feel like all women should have screening mammograms, at least starting at age 50. Unless, of course, they have a family history, then we would recommend them getting screened earlier.

Interviewer: I think that a good message from this is, get those screenings, if you haven't gotten those screenings. If you're somebody's daughter, and mom's not getting it done, much like Taylor Swift's case, what would you say to them?

Dr. Werner: The important thing is, is we have these screening tests to find cancer early so that we can treat it early, and have a better outcome. Then a lot of these things we do are preventative as well, so ideally we'd want to prevent cancer before we detect it.

So it's very important for people to talk about these things, because I find that in the cancer world, most people don't want to talk about it. It's a scary thing. If you can talk about it, bring it to the fore front. Make people aware that there're things they can do for prevention or catching it early, that's very important.

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