‘The Wait Is Over!’: Rockstar and Breast Cancer Survivor Melissa Etheridge Celebrates the Release of Her New Album

In a recent Instagram post, Etheridge shared that her newest album had officially launched.

“The wait is over!” Etheridge said in her caption. “My album ‘One Way Out’ is available now! 🎸💿 There’s only one thing left to do…. Go take a listen!”

The nine tracks on the long-awaited album were written and demoed in the late 1980s and early 1990s but never released. She recorded the album in 2013 and intended for it to be a part of a career retrospective box set, but the separation from her record label put the project on hold. Then, during the pandemic, Etheridge was able to revisit her songs and get them ready for release.

“When I found them, I wondered why I didn’t put them on my records back then. What was wrong with me?” she told The Daily Telegraph. “And I realized that there was a lot of fear involved. These were written before I came out. And I just had a whole lot more fear about speaking up strongly than I do now.”

But now, things are different, and the whole world gets to hear a liberating feat from a creative and confident woman owning her past and celebrating where she’s at today.

“The songs I found like As Cool As You Try and Save Myself, those feminist songs, I just wasn’t as comfortable to share them back then,” she said. “And now it’s, like, no problem.”

Understanding Breast Cancer

Screening for breast cancer is typically done via mammogram, which looks for lumps in the breast tissue and signs of cancer. And while mammograms aren’t perfect, they are still a great way to begin annual screening. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends women begin mammogram screening for breast cancer at age 45. It’s also important to be on top of self breast exams. If you ever feel a lump in your breast, like Melissa Etheridge did, it’s important to be vigilant and speak with your doctor. Voicing your concerns as soon as you have them can lead to earlier cancer detection which, in turn, can lead to better outcomes.

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RELATED: When Should I Get a Mammogram?

There are many treatment options for people with this disease, but treatment depends greatly on the specifics of each case. Identifying these specifics means looking into whether the cancerous cells have certain receptors. These receptors –  the estrogen receptor, the progesterone receptor and the HER2 receptor – can help identify the unique features of the cancer and help personalize treatment.

RELATED: Treatment for HER2-Positive Breast Cancer

“These receptors, I like to imagine them like little hands on the outside of the cell, they can grab hold of what we call ligands, and these ligands are essentially the hormones that may be circulating in the bloodstream that can then be pulled into this cancer cell and used as a fertilizer, as growth support for the cells,” Dr. Elizabeth Comen, a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, tells SurvivorNet.

The Unique Features of Breast Cancer: Deciding the Right Course of Treatment

One example of a type of ligand that can stimulate a cancer cell is the hormone estrogen, hence why an estrogen receptor positive breast cancer will grow when stimulated by estrogen. For these cases, your doctor may offer treatment that specifically targets the estrogen receptor. But for HER2 positive breast cancers, therapies that uniquely target the HER2 receptor may be the most beneficial.

Lumpectomy Vs. Mastectomy

Melissa Etheridge’s treatment was extensive. She had a lumpectomy to remove a 4-centimeter tumor from her breast, surgery to remove 14 lymph nodes after discovering the cancer had spread, dose-dense chemotherapy and radiation therapy. And while it’s important to note that breast cancer treatment can vary greatly from person to person, surgery is often a part of the conversation.

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The two main types of surgeries to remove breast cancer are lumpectomies and mastectomies. A lumpectomy is a breast-conserving surgery that removes the cancer and some normal tissue nearby, but not the breast itself. A mastectomy removes part or all of the breast.

Dr. Sarah Cate, a breast surgeon at Mount Sinai Health System, guides breast cancer patients through the lumpectomy vs. mastectomy decision. She says a mastectomy is a much bigger surgery with a much longer recovery that doesn’t necessarily have a lot of benefit to it.

Should I Have a Lumpectomy or Mastectomy?

“As a breast surgeon, my job is to review that data with them, and to help them understand that their long-term survival with mastectomy is equivalent to that with lumpectomy and radiation,” she told SurvivorNet in a previous interview. “Some of the things that would predicate a mastectomy are things like a large tumor size to breast ratio, or having cancer in more than one area of the breast, or things like a genetic mutation.”

In her experience at Mount Sinai, Dr. Cate performs more lumpectomies than mastectomies. No matter what you decide, it’s crucial to review the benefits of both surgeries for your specific case and consider your individual risk for disease.

Learn more about SurvivorNet’s rigorous medical review process.

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About the Author: Tung Chi