17 Celebrities Who Have Battled Cancer
Last Updated: Oct 05, 2016
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Celebrity brings with it many perks, but it doesn’t protect you from cancer. From film stars to reality-TV personalities and news anchors, many celebs face the C-word. Their experiences shed light on cancer’s risks, prevalence and, in many cases, survivability. Here are 16 actors and TV figures who have battled cancer.
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Ben Stiller recently revealed that he was diagnosed with prostate cancer two years ago at age 48 — and is now cancer-free.
The early catch was what helped Stiller beat his cancer — and quickly: “I got diagnosed with prostate cancer Friday, June 13th, 2014. On September 17th of that year I got a test back telling me I was cancer-free. The three months in between were a crazy roller-coaster ride with which about 180,000 men a year in America can identify with.”
Stiller credits the early catch via PSA test with “literally saving his life,” thanking a doctor who started keeping track of his baseline PSA levels at age 46. Noting that if he had waited until the recommended age by the American Cancer Society — 50 years old for men of average risk — it very well may have been too late for him.
Related: Ben Still's Prostate Cancer Scare
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After losing her mother to ovarian cancer, movie superstar and activist Angelia Jolie learned she carried the BRCA-1 gene, which significantly raises the risk for breast and ovarian cancers. In April 2013, at age 39, she opted for a preventative double mastectomy. She’d planned to eventually have her fallopian tubes and ovaries removed for similar reasons, but the surgeries came quicker than expected when she learned she had a small, benign ovarian tumor in early 2015. She kept her uterus (because uterine cancer doesn’t run in her family) and hasn’t reported cancer since.
Related: BRCA1 and BRCA2: Cancer Risk and Genetic Testing
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On Sunday, January 10, 2016, fans around the globe were stunned to learn that music icon David Bowie had died of cancer. Bowie and his loved ones had kept his 18-month battle with the disease private. In a radio interview shortly after his passing, close friend, collaborator and director Ivo van Hove confirmed liver cancer as the type. Bowie passed away peacefully and surrounded by family at age 69. On his birthday, just days before death, his final album, “Black Star,” was released -- an album he’d worked on during his battle with cancer and that collaborators called the artist’s “parting gift.”
Related: David Bowie Dies at 69; Star Transcended Music, Art and Fashion
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Singer and actress Kylie Minogue was only 36 when she learned she had early-stage breast cancer in May 2005. Several days later she had a partial mastectomy to remove a malignant tumor. That was followed by eight months of chemotherapy and radiation. She has not only shared her journey publicly, but she also encourages others to be their own health advocates. Minogue was given a clean bill of health mere weeks before her diagnosis, and the second opinion she sought may have saved her life. In 2015 she celebrated a decade of being cancer-free.
Related: Kylie Minogue Looks Forward to 10th Anniversary of Cancer All-Clear
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Actor Michael Douglas was diagnosed with tongue cancer in the summer of 2010. He initially hid the diagnosis, calling it “throat cancer,” for fear of its impact on his career. Tongue cancer treatment could have caused facial disfigurement, said his doctor, which would have made on-camera work less feasible. Instead, his treatment involved five months of aggressive radiation and chemotherapy. Douglas’ illness brought light to the common sexually transmitted disease, human papillomavirus (HPV), which can raise the risk for oral cancers. He had other risk factors as well, however, such as frequent smoking and drinking.
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In October 2011, TV personality Giuliana Rancic announced her diagnosis of early-stage breast cancer on a morning news program. She was diagnosed through a mammogram she had while going through the process of in vitro fertilization (IVF). Soon after, she had a double lumpectomy, and then later opted for a double mastectomy. Now 42 years old, the breast cancer survivor advocates for early breast cancer detection. She’s also written about her experience in a memoir, “Going Off Script: How I Survived a Crazy Childhood, Cancer, and Clooney’s 32 On-Screen Rejections.”
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Comedian Wanda Sykes learned she had breast cancer after a routine breast-reduction surgery. Pathologists diagnosed her with ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS. DCIS technically refers to precancerous abnormal cells inside the lining of the breast duct. While the condition is highly treatable and noninvasive, DCIS can potentially progress into invasive cancer. Sykes told TV talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres that she didn’t want to take any chances, particularly given her family history of cancer. The now 52-year-old had a double mastectomy in 2011, which greatly reduced her breast cancer risk.
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Actress Christina Applegate was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2008. Because her mother survived the disease, the then 36-year-old had been vigilant about mammograms since age 30. Her physician recommended MRIs as well, because of the density of her breasts. The first MRI showed abnormalities, which a biopsy revealed as cancerous. She also learned she carried the BRCA (aka breast cancer) gene. Given two choices -- radiation or a double mastectomy -- Applegate opted for the removal of both breasts. After the surgery she was declared cancer-free.
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Hugh Jackman started 2016 with what was at least his fourth skin cancer diagnosis. He shared the news via social media, encouraging his fans to wear sunscreen to prevent a similar fate. The type of skin cancer he’s had, basal cell carcinoma, is the most common form. It grows slowly, but can spread into other body areas if left untreated. Although the 47-year-old actor didn’t share treatment specifics, basal cell carcinoma is typically treated with radiation, surgery, chemotherapy or other local therapies that remove cancerous cells. With treatment, the prognosis tends to be good.
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MICHAEL C. HALL
“Dexter” star Michael C. Hall was in the midst of shooting the show’s fourth season when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which attacks the immune system. He initially kept it from fellow actors and crew and began chemotherapy a day after filming had completed. The then 38-year-old went public with an announcement before the 2010 Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild award ceremonies. By then, he was nearly finished with treatment and the disease was in remission.
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Actress Shannen Doherty says her dog, Bowie, was the first to discover her breast cancer. He sniffed obsessively on her right side, she said, where cancer was later detected through medical tests. Since her diagnosis in 2015, and learning the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes in 2016, Doherty has undergone chemotherapy, radiation and a single mastectomy. The 45-year-old shared thoughts and images of her journey on social media, with hopes she might bring comfort to others battling the disease.
Related: Happy News for Shannen Doherty as Actress Settles Cancer Lawsuit
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In 2003 actress Edie Falco was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 40. She’d found a lump in her breast a year earlier, but was told that it was due to having dense breast tissue rather than cancer. When she found the lump again, a biopsy showed malignancy. Falco underwent a lumpectomy as well as chemotherapy and radiation. She emerged cancer-free and credits the positive outcome, in part, to her longtime healthy lifestyle.
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News anchor Hoda Kotb was declared cancer-free after being treated for breast cancer, which she was diagnosed with in 2008. Treatment involved an invasive mastectomy surgery that left scars “like a road map” on her body, she told “TODAY.” She has been vocal about her experience, including the fact that she, like most women diagnosed with breast cancer, had no family history of the disease, and about how breast cancer can impact body image.
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ROBERT DE NIRO
In 2003 at age 60, actor Robert De Niro was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Because the disease was detected early through a routine checkup and he was in excellent health otherwise, according to his publicist, his prognosis was good. While De Niro kept specifics of his treatment private , doctors’ prediction of a full recovery proved accurate.
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By the time the public learned of actor Dustin Hoffman’s throat cancer diagnosis in 2013, he’d reportedly been treated and cured. Early detection allowed for surgery to nip the disease in the bud, leaving no trace of cancer. Hoffman was 75 at the time and continued to undergo preventative treatments -- details of which were kept private -- to lower his risk for recurrence.
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In August 2007 news anchor Robin Roberts began treatment for breast cancer. After announcing her diagnosis on the air, she had a partial mastectomy followed by chemotherapy and radiation. While the treatments were successful in combatting the disease, she was diagnosed with the rare blood disorder myelodysplastic syndrome in 2012. Cancer therapies, such as radiation, commonly cause MDS. As treatment, Roberts began chemotherapy, and then she received a bone marrow transplant from her sister, who was an ideal match. Roberts celebrated the end of her difficult health journey in February 2013.
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In late 2002, TV personality Sharon Osbourne shared that her diagnosis of colon cancer had spread to her lymph nodes on MTV’s “The Osbournes.” Doing so wasn’t a publicity stunt, Osbourne said, but an effort to prevent deaths from a disease she feels isn’t sufficiently discussed. She was 50 years old at the time and was diagnosed after her husband, a self-proclaimed hypochondriac, insisted she get checked. Following surgery to remove a section of her colon, she underwent chemotherapy. In 2012 she had a mastectomy after learning she carried the BRCA gene.
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WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Has your favorite star battled a life-threatening illness? What about you or a close family member? Tell us your story in the comments.
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