Celebrity Cancer Journey – Celebrities Who Beat Cancer!
Many people’s lives have changed with cancer. Some have succumbed to the disease, some have suffered and recovered, and others have supported loved ones in the fight against it.
So it’s not surprising that even celebrities remain entangled in this humongous web of cancer.
However, despite their struggles, celebrities have used their celebrity status to spread awareness through social media.
They choose to speak openly to their fans about their cancer diagnoses, while others opt to raise awareness about things like early detection treatment for cancer. Some just provide inspiration and encouragement to others.
Here is a list of 28 celebrities with cancer still alive and a bit about their celebrity cancer journey.
Celebrity Cancer Journey – Celebrities Who Beat Cancer
1. Jane Fonda
The famous actress and fitness maven Jane Fonda had multiple affairs with cancer. Her first bout was with breast cancer in 2010, wherein she had a mastectomy to remove her non-invasive breast tumour.
In 2018, she was seen with bandages on her face while promoting the fourth season of ‘Grace and Frankie.’ She then explained that a doctor had recently removed a cancerous growth from her lip.
Being the sun-worshipper she was, she disclosed in 2019 that she frequently also had to visit her skin doctor to cut off things surgically.
2. Michael Douglas
In 2010, the producer and Academy Award winner Michael Douglas was diagnosed with oral cancer. A persistent sore throat made him seek medical help, wherein doctors found a tumour on the base of his tongue and determined it to be oral cancer.
He started radiation and chemotherapy treatment to enter remission and is now healthy and cancer-free. Tobacco and alcohol consumption are the usual triggers for oral cancers.
However, the Oral Cancer Foundation research proved that the number of HPV-related oral cancers was increasing. This prompted Douglas to discuss the connection between oral stimulation and throat cancer during an interview after his diagnosis.
3. Sheryl Crow
Nine-time Grammy award singer and songwriter Sheryl Crow is one of the many celebrities who beat cancer as a breast cancer survivor. She was diagnosed with non-invasive breast cancer, ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) in 2006, during an annual mammogram at 44.
As the tumour was at an early stage, she was declared cancer-free after a lumpectomy and seven weeks of more than 30 rounds of radiation therapy. Like 60-70% of breast cancer patients, Sheryl also had no family history of the disease or significant risk factors.
She thus proclaims the importance for everyone to have an early detection plan, regardless of their family history. Crow, however, was again diagnosed with a benign brain tumour in 2014.
4. Julia Louis-Dreyfus
After winning her 11th Emmy Award in 2017, actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus revealed her breast cancer diagnosis on social media. She was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer and had to undergo six rounds of chemotherapy and a double mastectomy to treat it.
She even had to pause the production of the HBO show ‘Veep’ while she underwent chemotherapy.
Now after beating breast cancer, Louis-Dreyfus advocates for other breast cancer patients. She also helped designer Wes Gordon design a T-shirt for Saks Fifth Avenue’s Key to the Cure program.
5. Bob Marley
The legendary reggae singer Bob Marley was a giant in the music industry, famous for genre-bending music. He, however, was diagnosed with acral lentiginous melanoma in 1977 and succumbed to it in 1981.
The skin cancer developed under his toenail, which he detected too late because of its unusual position. It thus reminds everyone that unique spots shouldn’t be neglected but shown to the dermatologist.
6. Caitlyn Jenner
The retired Olympic gold-winning decathlete and golf enthusiast Caitlyn Jenner spent lots of time out in the sun, which soon caught up with her. The American television personality thus soon developed skin cancer, or more specifically, basal cell carcinoma on her nose.
This is a common skin cancer treatable with prescription creams or surgery, and in her case, doctors surgically removed it from her nose. Caitlyn now advises her fans to wear sunscreen as protection from damaging UV radiation.
7. Khloe Kardashian
The ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’ star and youngest of the Kardashian sisters, Khloe Kardashian, had many moles biopsied over the years. Out of two moles removed from her back, one was a melanoma. She had 8 inches of skin removed, which was painful as it involved lots of skin.
As one of the celebrities who beat cancer, it proves that it’s not too late to check for skin cancer signs. Khloe now examines herself every three months and carefully follows the ABCDEs of sun safety.
8. Hugh Jackman
The Australian superstar Hugh Jackman, famous for productions such as ‘Australia’ and as Wolverine in the ‘X-Man’ franchise, was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma in 2013.
Basal cell carcinoma is a common skin cancer that’s rarely fatal. By May 2015, in his celebrity cancer journey, Hugh had surgically removed four cancers from his skin.
He now uses his fame to spread the importance of wearing sunscreen. He also gets checked up every three months to ensure his skin remains healthy.
9. John McCain
US Senator John McCain was a formidable and forbidding figure diagnosed with melanoma several times since 1993. He, however, was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2017 when doctors removed a blood clot above his left eye.
The glioblastoma tumour was associated with the clot, which microscopically spread into the brain tissue. Though John began radiation and chemotherapy to treat it, he succumbed to cancer in 2018.
10. Robin Roberts
During a self-exam in 2007, Good Morning America co-anchor Robin Roberts discovered a lump in her breast. An ultrasound and biopsy later confirmed an aggressive triple-negative kind of breast cancer.
Her treatment included a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
She later also discovered she had a rare blood disorder, myelodysplastic syndrome, in 2012. As one of the celebrities with cancer still alive, she is now a vocal proponent for regular breast self-exams, mammograms, and bone marrow transplant donations.
11. Larry King
A chest x-ray during an annual exam helped former CNN talk show host Larry King detect, treat, and thus stop lung cancer’s progression. He then had surgery and returned to work in a fortnight.
He was a former smoker who smoked three packs a day, who quit smoking the day of a heart attack in 1987.
He urges everyone to take similar precautions like a chest x-ray for the early detection of lung cancer. He also had prostate cancer, which he was successfully treated for in 1999.
12. Phil Lesh
Phil Lesh, the bassist for Grateful Dead, had cancer affairs.
The first was in 2006 when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and had a tumour removed. He later revealed in 2015 that he was fighting bladder cancer. Though the tumours were non-aggressive and there was no indication of its spread, he cancelled his Phil & Friends concerts.
13. Wanda Sykes
Comedian Wanda Sykes discovered her breast cancer during a breast reduction surgery in 2011. Breast tissue samples revealed ductal carcinoma (DCIS), cancer in her milk ducts.
In an interview with Ellen DeGeneres, Sykes revealed that she opted for a preventative double mastectomy as her mother’s side has heredity of breast cancer.
It was so that she never had breast cancer.
14. Lance Armstrong
In 1996, professional cyclist Lance Armstrong was diagnosed with testicular cancer at the tender age of 25. However, as cancer had spread to his lungs and brain by the time of the diagnosis, doctors said he had less than 40% chance of survival.
While he said he was in complete shock at his diagnosis, Lance is now one of the many celebrities with cancer still alive. He says his cancer experience made his life better.
15. Joe Simpson
Joe Simpson went from a Stage IV prostate cancer sufferer to cancer-free. He was diagnosed with the condition in September 2016 and underwent surgery in October that year, followed by radiation to clear the disease.
The cancer was a blessing in disguise to Joe, making him open his eyes to eating healthy and exercising. And with his family together, it reminded him that family matters most.
16. Robert De Niro
The Hollywood legend Robert De Niro, who won various awards for his art, and was famous for his strict guy roles, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2003 at 60.
It was detected early through regular checkups, after which he had a prostatectomy and completed his treatment in 2004. He soon returned to work to complete the film Hide and Seek, released in 2005.
17. Sharon Osbourne
While shooting The Osbournes in 2002, America’s Got Talent Judge Sharon Osbourne was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. The Osbournes show documented her celebrity cancer journey where she underwent surgery to remove a part of her colon.
She also had chemotherapy and was declared cancer-free the following year. Osbourne then founded the Sharon Osbourne Colon Cancer Program providing at-home help, transportation, and more to colon cancer patients.
While she was never diagnosed with breast cancer, she also had a double mastectomy in 2012 after a genetic test predisposed her to breast cancer.
18. Kylie Minogue
Australian singer Kylie Minogue was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, at age 36. She had to postpone her Showgirl tour to undergo immediate treatment. After an 18-month fight, she went into remission and resumed her tour.
Her treatment included a partial mastectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation, after which she’s now cancer-free.
She had an initial misdiagnosis of breast cancer, which emphasised that everyone should advocate for their care. She also admonishes that everyone in white coats doesn’t need to be correct.
19. Nelson Mandela
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nelson Mandela was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2001. He beat it after undergoing seven weeks of radiation and hormonal treatment without surgery or chemotherapy.
Mandela, however, passed away in December 2013 due to a recurring lung infection.
20. Christina Applegate
Christina Applegate was the teenage sensation of “Married…..with Children’, after which she acted in multiple Broadway musicals and Anchorman movies.
As her mother is a breast cancer survivor, she started getting mammograms at age 30. She learned she had breast cancer in 2008, after which she underwent a double mastectomy and radiation, despite having cancer in only one breast.
She even had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed in 2017 after finding out she has a BRCA1 gene, predisposing her to develop cancer. While she didn’t want to speak about her breast cancer at first, she had to because many young women got it and didn’t understand it.
21. Rita Wilson
Actor and musician Rita Wilson had a double mastectomy followed by breast reconstruction surgery after getting diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015. She was first diagnosed with the condition lobular carcinoma in situ.
It isn’t cancer but is more likely to turn into cancer later on, as in Rita’s case.
Though Rita is one of the celebrities who beat cancer, it took time to feel normal. She started practising meditation and adopted healthy habits like swimming, walking, yoga, eating less meat, and cutting down on alcohol post-cancer.
22. Sofia Vergara
The Modern Family star Sofia Vergara was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at 28 during a routine checkup. She spent hours in radiation treatment and then removed her thyroid to become a cancer survivor.
She has since opened up about living with hypothyroidism, which she manages with the help of medication. She also advocates that early detection is essential and that everyone should have an annual checkup.
23. Angelina Jolie
Angelina Jolie isn’t one of the celebrities with cancer because she never had breast cancer. She, however, did have a double mastectomy in her thirties after testing positive for a BRCA1 mutation.
Her family history and the loss of her mother to cancer prompted her to take this preventative measure. It, in turn, helped reduce the risks of developing breast cancer from 87% to about 5%.
24. Mark Ruffalo
‘Avengers’ star Mark Ruffalo was diagnosed with a benign brain tumour in 2001. A vivid dream of a brain tumour in May 2001 terrified and prompted him to consult his doctor.
His doctor ordered an MRI to put Mark at ease but was baffled to learn that Mark did indeed have a golf ball size behind his left ear.
While the tumour was benign and Ruffalo made a full recovery after surgery, he suffered from complications, including facial paralysis. There has, however, been no return of brain cancer.
25. Cobie Smulders
Cobie Smulders, the ‘How I Met Your Mother’ star and ‘Avengers,’ actress, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the young age of 25.
While she is in remission after many surgeries, she kept her diagnosis private for years. She opened up about it only in 2015 while describing the hardships associated with the treatment.
She overcame odds by welcoming two children with her husband, Taran Killam, and encouraged women to be proactive about their health.
26. Dustin Hoffman
Two-time Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman underwent surgery for throat cancer in 2013 and is surgically cured of the disease thanks to early detection. He now routinely screens for early detection and follows a healthy diet and regular exercise.
27. Marcia Cross
Desperate Housewives star Marcia Cross revealed to her fans in September 2018 that she was an anal cancer survivor. While she has been in remission since 2018, after undergoing chemotherapy in 2017, she still conducts monthly checks.
She also raises awareness about this little-discussed disease after learning that people were ashamed, hiding, and lying about it.
28. Barry Watson
Actor Barry Watson, and TV-show 7th Heaven star, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in March 2002 at age 28.
His mom got worried after seeing a large lump on the left of his neck, which prompted Barry to consult his doctor. A biopsy and other tests confirmed cancer, after which he started chemotherapy treatment in April.
Though the cancer was undetectable halfway through six months of chemotherapy, he continued with the rest of the treatments. He’s now looking good and has since then focused more on health, fitness, and wellness.
Most celebrities with cancer who’re still alive attribute it to the early detection, proper diagnosis, and appropriate treatment for their cancers. Following a healthy lifestyle of regular exercise and a healthy diet also plays an essential part in the celebrity cancer journey, especially in remission.
We’re seeing new and innovative approaches to cancer immunotherapy being researched by companies like ValoTx who are working on peptide-coated vaccine technology called PeptiCRAd that target an individual’s specific cancer profile which gives us hope, that someday, in the near future, we may be able to fight cancer!