Taylor Swift, with her mother, Andrea Finlay in New York City in December 2014. (Photo: Getty Images)
Taylor Swift shares a lot with her fans through her music, but the message she posted on her blog might be one of her most important ever.
“I’m saddened to tell you that my mom has been diagnosed with cancer,” the singer writes. “I’d like to keep the details of her condition and treatment plans private, but she wanted you to know.”
As a Christmas gift, Swift asked her mother, Andrea Finlay, to see a doctor for some routine screenings — not because she had glaring symptoms indicating a hidden problem, but simply because she was due. The results of tests came back, and they weren’t what the family was hoping for.
Swift and her mother at the 2011 Nashville Songwriters Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony. (Photo: Getty Images)
“She wanted you to know because your parents may be too busy juggling everything they’ve got going on to go to the doctor, and maybe you reminding them to go get checked for cancer could possibly lead to an early diagnosis and an easier battle… Or peace of mind in knowing that they’re healthy and there’s nothing to worry about,” Swift explains.
We don’t know what type of cancer 57-year-old Finlay has, but this revelation is a major reminder to everyone that, no matter how longer your to-do list, making a trip your physician isn’t something you should put off.
Swift and her mom at the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards in 2010. (Photo: Getty Images)
Even if you appear healthy and life is hectic, you need to keep periodic appointments with your doc, says Susan K. Boolbol, MD, FACS, Chief in the Division of Breast Surgery at Mount Sinai Beth Israel.
Related: 17 Red-Flag Signs Of Cancer
“As adults get older, we want them to have yearly checkups with their primary-care physicians,” she tells Yahoo Health. “They should be talking to their doctors about screenings — there are changes that happen, and it is hard to stay up-to-date on all of them.”
Boolbol says that men and women generally need a colonoscopy at age 50, repeated every so often at the doctor’s request based on the initial results. Older men should talk to their doctors about the right age to start prostate screening, and middle-aged women should begin yearly breast screenings.
“Starting at age 40, women need to start getting mammograms and ultrasounds,” Boolbol says. “It’s also important to get a clinical exam. If we find a breast mass on exam, even if the mammogram and ultrasound come back negative, that doesn’t mean you can ignore it. That lump still needs to be monitored.”
Your PCP will also talk to you about skin-cancer screenings, and perform checks themselves. “That’s really the important message here,” says Boolbol. “Adults need to be talking to their primary-care doctors about what screenings they should be doing at various ages.”
Swift isn’t the first to share news bringing a surge of information about cancer symptoms, screening and prevention to the forefront. Several years ago, actor Michael Douglas discussed his oral cancer, causing added buzz about causes and symptoms of an under-discussed disease. In March, Angelina Jolie wrote an op/ed for the New York Times about a preventative surgery to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes, after she removed her breasts last year after testing positive for the BRCA1 gene.
Celebrity admissions can help bring prevention reminders to public consciousness, or open up discussion on lesser-known conditions, says Boolbol. “With Angelina, that was really the biggest uptick we’ve seen in health care recently with genetic testing [for the BRCA mutation],” says Boolbol. “It hadn’t really been discussed before— and that’s what this is all about. Starting a conversation with your doctor.”
Swift got us talking, while her mom will be starting down another road. “She’s got an important battle to fight,” the singer says of Andrea’s next steps. We’re sure she’ll have lots of support, with Swift’s legions of fans cheering her on.