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Taylor Swift's Mother Has Cancer: What Her Diagnosis Can Teach Us All

April 10, 2015

Everyone knows Taylor Swift as a pop superstar who creates hit records, but the Grammy-winning singer is also more than that—she’s a daughter who just may have saved her mother’s life.

Swift announced Thursday that her mom, 57-year-old Andrea Finlay, has cancer. Doctors diagnosed Findlay with cancer after Swift and her brother pushed their mother to get a health check-up and screening late last year.

“For Christmas this year, I asked my mom that one of her gifts to me be her going to the doctor to get screened for any health issues, just to ease some worries of mine,” Swift said in a blog post on the social media platform Tumblr.

Though Taylor’s mother said she felt fine at the time, tests revealed she had cancer (the family isn’t saying what type of cancer she has or the disease’s stage).

Swift said she decided to share her family’s news with the public at her mother’s request. She wanted  Taylor’s young fans to remind their parents to take care of their health, which could “possibly lead to an early diagnosis and an easier battle."

There’s a great lesson in this for all of us. As doctors, we often see patients who only come in for a health screening or annual exam because a concerned family member has constantly asked them to do so. In certain instances, if it weren’t for a loved one we wouldn’t discover and diagnose some diseases at an early or treatable stage.

I can’t hammer home this point enough—early detection is lifesaving. If you are 40 and older and have certain risk factors, it’s especially important to get screened for potential health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. The American Cancer Society list several guidelines on its site for when to get screened for certain cancers. If you are in the age group I mentioned, here are some important guidelines to remember:

  • Women age 40 and older should get yearly mammograms. If you have a family

    history or genetic risk factors, you also should get an MRI in addition to a mammogram.

  • Every five to 10 years, you should get regularly screened for colon cancer if you are 50 and older.
  • Women between the ages of 30-65 should get a Pap Smear and HPV test every five years to screen for cervical cancer.
If you are over 40, you also should regularly test your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol. High levels of each of these health indicators could put you at greater risk for certain cancers, so it’s important to get a thorough assessment of your health and proactively take steps to correct any things that could signal bigger problems long term.

Several studies have shown that early detection of many diseases, including cancer, increases the likelihood of survival. I understand that many people don’t like going to the doctor or may think they are too busy to make time for a check-up, but this thinking could unnecessarily jeopardize their health. As Taylor Swift’s mother shows, it never hurts to get checked even if you feel fine.

Taking the time to do this potentially could save your life.

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