News that Australia’s biggest music star Kylie Minogue has been diagnosed with breast cancer shows the disease -- the most common cancer in women worldwide -- can strike at an early age.
The petite 36-year-old singing sensation postponed the Australian and Asian legs of her Showgirl tour on Tuesday after being diagnosed with “early breast cancer” while visiting her family in Australia.
She is expected to begin treatment immediately, according to her representatives.
Minogue is the second pop star to be diagnosed with the disease in as many years. American singer Anastacia underwent treatment for breast cancer in 2003 after the illness was detected when she was 29 years old.
“It is unusual because breast cancer is predominately a disease of older women,” Professor John Toy, the medical director of the charity Cancer Research U.K., said.
“To be diagnosed at 36 is unusually bad luck for her.”
But Toy said the disease was diagnosed early, which speaks well for Minogue’s prognosis.
“She should feel confident,” he added.
Minogue’s treatment is likely to consist of some combination of surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and hormone treatment, depending on the specific features of her cancer.
The singer’s openness about her illness will improve awareness about the disease, which kills some 400,000 women each year. Toy believes it should encourage other young women to be proactive in looking after their health.
“Here’s Kylie stepping up on the stage saying ’Look I’ve got it. I’m dealing with it. You can deal with this in a positive way,’” he said.
But he added it should not create alarm because the majority of young women with lumps in their breast do not have breast cancer but benign cysts. He urged women who feel something suspicious to have it checked out.
“Breast cancer is so much easier to deal with successfully when it presents and is treated at an early stage,” said Toy.
Improved screening methods have enabled doctors to detect breast cancer, which affects more than a million women worldwide each year, much sooner.
The disease develops in the cells within the breast. If the cancer is not treated the cells continue to divide and form a tumor. The earlier the disease is diagnosed and treated, the better the survival rate.
The risk of developing breast cancer increases with age. Most cases occur in women over 50 years old. Only a small percentage are in women in their 30s or younger.
Factors which can increase a woman’s risk of the illness include having a mother or close relative with the disease, inherited mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, an early puberty and not having any children.
“Having children young, younger than 20, is protective (against breast cancer,)” said Toy.