The Grammy award winner first opened up about her mom's health in 2015.

By Faith Brar
January 22, 2020

Taylor Swift has been pretty private about her mom, Andrea Swift's battle with cancer. The singer first opened up about her mom's diagnosis in 2015, sharing the news on Tumblr. The post has since been removed from Tumblr, but Taylor reportedly wrote that she'd felt "concerned" about her mom's health and had asked her to get a medical check-up to ease her worries, according to Today.

"There were no red flags [at her check-up] and she felt perfectly fine, but she did it just to get me and my brother off her case about it," Taylor reportedly wrote at the time, according to ABC News. "The results came in, and I'm saddened to tell you that my mom has been diagnosed with cancer." (Related: 10 Times Taylor Swift and Her Squad Proved Body Confidence Is the Ultimate Goal)

After that, the Swift family didn't share any updates about Andrea's health. Then, in March 2019, Taylor revealed in an essay for Elle that her mom's cancer had returned.

"I've had to learn how to handle serious illness in my family," wrote the singer. "Both of my parents have had cancer, and my mom is now fighting her battle with it again. It's taught me that there are real problems and then there's everything else. My mom's cancer is a real problem." (Related: Does At-Home Medical Testing Help or Hurt You?)

Now, in a new interview with Variety, Swift shared that while her mom was fighting cancer for the second time, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. "While she was going through treatment, they found a brain tumor," Taylor told the publication. "And the symptoms of what a person goes through when they have a brain tumor is nothing like what we've ever been through with her cancer before. So it's just been a really hard time for us as a family." (Related: Maria Menounos Shares How She's Still Suffering from Symptoms After Brain Surgery)

For now, it's unclear what type of cancer Taylor's mom has, what stage it is, or what kind of treatment she's undergone. That said, multiple news outlets, including E! News and Page Six, have reported that Andrea is fighting breast cancer. Given that breast cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers among American women, that's not a long shot. What's more, women who are in the late stages of breast cancer have a 10-15 percent chance of their cancer metastasizing to the brain, says Nicole Williams, M.D. an oncologist at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center. "Breast cancer cells can travel through the body's circulatory systems into the brain and form a metastatic lesion," she says. (Related: 5 Simple Ways to Reduce Your Breast Cancer Risk)

When cancer metastasizes to the brain, common symptoms can include headache, slurred speech, blurred vision, balance problems, dizziness, memory problems, mood or personality changes, vomiting, and/or seizures, explains Dr. Williams. "If your doctor suspects brain metastasis, then they will likely order an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) study of the brain to diagnose," she says.

Regardless of the initial type of cancer, once the disease metastasizes to the brain, there are usually two lines of treatment, notes Dr. Williams. "Treatment options for brain metastases can be divided into local treatments—those which specifically address brain metastases—and systemic treatments, which can be used to treat cancer anywhere in the body," she explains. (Related: How a Cervical Cancer Scare Made Me Take My Sexual Health More Seriously Than Ever)

The truth is, people often think of breast cancer as one of the more curable forms of cancer, as the mortality rate has been steadily declining for decades. And while brain tumors themselves aren't necessarily deadly, metastatic breast cancer tends to be a different, sadder story. "A recent study found that the overall survival for breast cancer with brain metastases [across breast cancer subtypes] was a little over two years," explains Dr. Williams. "Patients with HER2-positive tumors have a life expectancy of three years."

However, the prognosis for metastatic breast cancer is likely to improve over time as newer treatments become available, adds Dr. Williams. "It is also important to note that there are long-term survivors of metastatic breast cancer," she says.

As for what quality of life might look like once cancer metastasizes to the brain, it's hard to know, as everyone's experience is different, says Dr. Williams. "Some patients' quality of life improves after the treatment of their brain metastases, especially if they were symptomatic," she explains. In other words, while the prognosis isn't always promising, it is possible to alleviate the aforementioned symptoms associated with cancer metastasizing to the brain so the person can live more comfortably.

Given the circumstances, Taylor told Variety that she's trying to be home with her mom as much as possible these days. "I also wanted to be able to work as much as I can handle right now, with everything that's going on at home," shared the singer. "And I wanted to figure out a way that I could do both those things." (Related: Taylor Swift Swears By This Supplement for Stress and Anxiety Relief)

In an effort to carve out more time to be with her mom, Taylor said she's cut back on her touring schedule. "I mean, we don't know what is going to happen," she told Variety. "We don't know what treatment we're going to choose. It just was the decision to make at the time, for right now, for what's going on."

Overall, Taylor shared that her mom's health issues have had a serious emotional impact on her whole family, and the singer said she doesn't take sharing these intimate details lightly. "Everyone loves their mom; everyone's got an important mom," she told Variety. "But for me, she's really the guiding force. Almost every decision I make, I talk to her about it first. So obviously it was a really big deal to ever speak about her illness."

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