Beauty and the Cancer Beast

Jul 16, 2010 | Stacy Matson | Celebrity Health
Beauty and the Cancer Beast

image by: Public Domain

Patti Hansen has now partnered with Sloan-Kettering to spread the word that bladder cancer isn’t just a man’s disease and it doesn’t have to be a death sentence

Patti Hansen, the supermodel wife of Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, revealed in the August issue of Vogue magazine that she was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2007. Hansen, 54, says her symptoms were mild at first. She had been lightly spotting for months - then one morning she urinated blood. A few days later doctors discovered a mass in her bladder. Within a month she was undergoing chemotherapy -which shrunk the tumor but didn't get rid of it completely. Three months after that, she underwent surgery, major surgery.

Hansen says, “Cancer is such a friggin' monster. It's radical. You go through the process of ‘what are you going to do?’ There are so many options. One doctor said I had two to three years to live with this thing in me.  I was like, 'Get [it] out.' Just get that monster out of my body! I saw one person who said, ‘It's small, why are you going so radical?’ But you have to make these choices. I didn't want it growing back.”

Hansen’s doctors at New York's Memorial Sloan-Kettering took an aggressive approach to her treatment: they removed her bladder.  Due to the tumor's location, that was their only choice. Her surgeons then constructed what is called a neobladder (new bladder) out of her intestine. They also removed Hansen’s appendix and performed a full hysterectomy.  More chemotherapy followed. “The chemo is really horrible," she says. “I don't know how people get through it. I have friends who are on that wicked stuff for life. It's so debilitating, so depressing. The first shot just totally ruined my arm. You have to go get yourself plugged in every week, and you sit there and you think, My God, I take such good care of myself.  I'm so organic. I can't believe I'm putting this poison in me.  But it shrank the tumor” and saved her life. Hansen is happy to say she is now cancer free.

Bladder cancer is the fifth most common cancer in the United States - 4th among men and 11th among women. Approximately 70,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. Of those 70,000 more than 14,000 will die from the disease usually because of lack of screening or late diagnosis. Bladder cancer tends to occur most commonly in people over 60, Caucasian men, and smokers. When diagnosed and treated at an early stage, 95% of bladder cancer patients survive more than five years.

Because of the success of her surgery Hansen says she wants to help other women who have bladder cancer. She says, "It's not something people talk about. When I found out that I had it, I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is an old man's disease!  You go to Sloan-Kettering and you're sitting there with all these men with prostate problems. And all the information I was getting out of Sloan was for men. They have really got to move this forward for women, because now they are seeing more and more women with bladder cancer. I've already met two other women in this area with it.” Hansen has now partnered with Sloan-Kettering to spread the word that bladder cancer isn’t just a man’s disease and it doesn’t have to be a death sentence.

Stacy Matson is a health enthusiast from Southern California and regularly blogs on Celebrity Health for A Healthier World, as well as contributing to the Best of the Best.

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