34 Famous Cancer Survivors
The first Sunday in June is National Cancer Survivors Day, a reminder that with early detection, treatment, and support it may be possible to beat cancer and go on to live a meaningful and inspiring life. In the United States, there are currently an estimated 15.5 million people living with and beyond cancer, and that number is expected to grow to 20.3 million by 2026. Here is a look at some of the most-high profile cancer survivors of recent generations.
Beloved former President Jimmy Carter announced in August 2015 that he had melanoma that had spread to his liver and brain. He subsequently underwent surgery, radiation and a newer kind of cancer treatment called immunotherapy to fight the disease. The result was that just months after discovering he had metastatic cancer, doctors announced that he no longer needed cancer treatment. His remarkable outcome was attributed to the drug pembrolizumab, a drug that targets cancer by ramping up the body's immune system.
In 2009, legendary U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest forms of the disease. Her survival is believed to be tied to the fact that the tumor on her pancreas was found when it was only about one centimeter in length. Discovered during a routine checkup, doctors believe the cancer was caught at a very early stage, likely before it had a chance to spread. Ginsburg was 75 at the time. She continues to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.
At 48, famed comedian Ben Stiller was diagnosed with prostate cancer. The disease was discovered through a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. He had no symptoms of the disease or family history. Luckily for Stiller, the treatment was fairly simple. He underwent a surgery to remove the prostate and was later declared cancer-free. Many doctors and organizations recommend that men have yearly PSA screenings starting at 50.
First Lady Betty Ford underwent a mastectomy for breast cancer just weeks after her husband was named President of the United States in 1974. Her willingness to discuss what she was going through went a long way toward increasing awareness about breast cancer and raising its visibility. Her high profile battle also allowed other women to establish a dialogue about the issue, which at the time was still a relatively sensitive topic. Ford lived to be 93, passing away in 2011.
In 1996, the famed road racing cyclist Lance Armstrong was diagnosed with testicular cancer that had spread to his brain, the most advanced form of the disease. Armstrong underwent surgery and chemotherapy and returned to cycling, winning the Tour de France seven consecutive times. The form of cancer he was diagnosed with typically has a five-year survival rate of less than 50 percent. It has been more than 20 years since Armstrong was diagnosed. Amid his cancer battle, Armstrong established the Livestrong Foundation, a non-profit that provides support for people affected by the disease.
In 2006, after her yearly mammogram, musician Sheryl Crow was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. After undergoing a minimally invasive lumpectomy and seven weeks of radiation, her treatment was complete. The singer has said in interviews that she believes early detection made a big difference in her case. Crow has been active in sharing her experience with other cancer patients to provide hope and insight.
Several weeks after First Lady Betty Ford underwent a mastectomy for breast cancer, Happy Rockefeller, wife of Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, had a double mastectomy. Ford's very public diagnosis led to an increased number of the reported cases of breast cancer, which came to be known as the "Betty Ford blip." Like Ford, Rockefeller also had a long life after battling the disease, passing away in 2015 at 88 years old.
In April 2012, billionaire Warren Buffett announced to shareholders that he had prostate cancer, telling them: "The good news is that I've been told by my doctors that my condition is not remotely life-threatening or even debilitating in any meaningful way." Then 81, the Berkshire Hathaway owner underwent a series of 44 radiation treatments for his cancer. He continues to serve as chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.
With a family history of breast cancer, "Married with Children" star Christina Applegate was vigilant about getting regular mammograms starting at 30 years old. In 2008, at age 36, she also underwent an MRI on her breasts, after which she was diagnosed with the disease. In the years after her battle with cancer, the actress founded Right Action for Women, which helps at-risk women pay for MRI screenings and testing.
"Beverly Hills 90210" star Shannen Doherty has been in remission since April 2017, after spending two years fighting breast cancer. Doherty, whose cancer spread to her lymph nodes, had a mastectomy and underwent chemotherapy and radiation. The five-year survival rate for stage two breast cancer is 93 percent and is 72 percent for stage three.
Olivia Newton-John has fought cancer not once, but twice. She was initially diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992. The disease struck her sacrum in 2017, and the now 69-year-old singer defeated it again. In 2012, two decades after her first cancer battle, John launched the Olivia Newton-John Wellness and Research Centre in Melbourne, Australia. The public hospital, is dedicated to providing world-leading treatment complemented by wellness programs, clinical trials and research.
Tennis legend Martina Navratilova was diagnosed with the most common form of breast cancer, ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), in 2010. Her treatment included a lumpectomy and radiation. The Wimbledon champion has said in interviews that she felt partly to blame for the diagnosis, as she went four years without getting a mammogram. Luckily, the prognosis for someone with DCIS is outstanding, with 99 percent survival rate.
Melissa Etheridge's case dates back to 2005, when she was initially diagnosed with breast cancer. The "Come to My Window" crooner went through a lumpectomy and five rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. She also credits medical marijuana with helping her through the difficult side effects of chemotherapy, including gastrointestinal pain, loss of appetite and depression. The rocker is now focused on eating well (eliminating refined sugar and adding plenty of leafy greens), exercising, and working every day to keep her body strong and healthy.
Famous for her role on the sitcom "The Nanny," when Fran Drescher completed the 1999 season of the show she knew something was wrong with her. In 2000, she was officially diagnosed with uterine cancer. She went on to write a best-selling book in 2003 chronicling the experience. She also served as president of the Cancer Schmancer Movement, an organization focused on the importance of early detection and prevention.
Pittsburgh Penguins hockey player Mario Lemieux was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease, now known as Hodgkin's lymphoma, when he was 27-years-old in 1993. After an enlarged lymph node was removed from his neck, Lemieux was found to be in the early stages of the disease and underwent radiation. The Mario Lemieux Foundation now raises funds for cancer research and patient care -- and Lemieux, who lives in Canada, now owns the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Oscar-winning actress Kathy Bates fought cancer on two occasions. In 2003, she dealt with ovarian cancer. In 2011, she was found to have cancer in her left breast and underwent a double mastectomy. Bates has since spoken out widely about cancer and the importance of early screenings as well as serving as an ambassador on behalf of the Lymphatic Education & Research Network (LE&RN) about lymphedema, a painful condition that can affect up to 30 percent of breast cancer survivors.
In 2002, the then 49-year-old host of daytime television show "The Talk" was diagnosed with colon cancer. She subsequently had a foot of large intestine removed, as well as some surrounding lymph nodes. Because one of those lymph nodes tested positive for cancer, indicating the disease had spread beyond her colon, Osbourne was also treated with chemotherapy. She has since remained cancer free. She later helped establish the Sharon Osbourne Colon Cancer Program at Los Angeles' Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
"Wolverine" star Hugh Jackman has had six operations to remove skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma) from his face. Jackman first discovered the disease in 2013 after noticing an abnormal mole. Basal cell carcinoma is the most commonly-treated type of skin cancer aside from melanoma.
California Gov. Jerry Brown was first diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer in 2012. In 2017, his office announced that he would receive additional treatment for the disease, but would remain at work while doing so. He received a short course of radiation and doctors gave Brown an excellent diagnosis. The governor also had surgery in 2011 to remove a basal cell carcinoma, a form of skin cancer, from his nose.
In 2015, Food Network celebrity chef Sandra Lee revealed that she had been diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) after a routine mammogram. Then 48, Lee underwent a lumpectomy initially to treat the disease, and later opted for a double mastectomy. She has since spoken out strongly about the need for starting mammograms in a woman's twenties or thirties.
Former "Good Morning America" co-host Joan Lunden was diagnosed with breast cancer after having an ultrasound, a diagnostic method used on women who have dense, fibrous tissue. A tumor was discovered in her right breast, and a core biopsy confirmed that she had cancer. Lunden had chemotherapy, a lumpectomy, and radiation. She is now an advocate for cancer screenings, breast self-exams, and early detection.
Former Cincinnati Reds outfielder Ken Griffey Sr. was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2006. Because he had a family history of cancer, Griffey had been getting regular prostate exams and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests, which led to early detection of his case. After having surgery to address the cancer, the sports legend remains cancer-free.
In 2016, legendary supermodel Janice Dickinson underwent two lumpectomies and two months of radiation for breast cancer. The former "America's Next Top Model" judge now says she is cancer-free.
In 2017, talk show host Larry King had an annual chest X-ray that revealed a cancerous mass on his lung. The famed interviewer underwent surgery in July 2017 and the doctors removed the malignancy. One week later, King was back to work on "Larry King Now." He also beat back prostate cancer in 1999.
Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood had part of a lung removed in 2017 after receiving a cancer diagnosis. Luckily, the cancer had not spread and after three months of check-ups, doctors gave Wood a clean bill of health.
TV and radio host Maria Menounos underwent surgery in 2017 to remove a brain tumor the size of a golf ball. The surgery removed 99.9 percent of the tumor, which was benign. Menounos later described the health scare as a positive, saying she now feels more focused on what really matters. The self-described "super achiever" has returned to work, but has chosen much more low-maintenance professional projects.
Black Eyed Peas member Jaime "Taboo" Gomez was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2014 following a visit to the emergency room for pain in his back and abdomen. Gomez was treated with surgery and aggressive chemotherapy. He is now in remission and works to help provide better health care access on Native American reservations.
In 2016, former Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman took to Twitter to reveal that he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. In the tweet, Wyman wrote that he was expected to make a full recovery. The musician, record producer and songwriter was a member of the Rolling Stones from 1962 until 1993.
Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh discovered in 2015 that he had bladder cancer. After undergoing treatment he reported that the cancer was non-aggressive and the situation was "under control." Lesh subsequently returned to touring with his bands Phil Lesh and Friends and PhilRad.
Comedian Tommy Chong was diagnosed in 2012 with with stage one prostate cancer. Chong said he drastically changed his lifestyle in order to beat cancer, including seeking naturopathic treatment. In 2015, he was also diagnosed with stage one colorectal cancer. After undergoing surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, Chong declared that he is doing well.
Famed broadcast journalist Tom Brokaw was diagnosed in 2014 with multiple myeloma. The rare blood cancer strikes just over 30,000 Americans each year and kills about 12,600. Brokaw's treatment has involved years of chemotherapy, a spinal operation, and monthly infusions of bone supplements and drugs to prevent respiratory infection. His cancer is said to be in remission.
Radio personality Robin Quivers, who privately fought a 2012 cancer diagnosis, announced on Howard Stern's radio show that she was cancer-free the following year. She has said the only symptom of the disease was that she was tired. She had surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation treatment for a mass on her uterus. Now in remission, Quivers advocates for cancer research.
While in the middle of her 2005 world tour, Songstress Kylie Minogue was diagnosed with breast cancer. She chose to have a partial mastectomy and undergo radiation and chemotherapy. Speaking on "60 Minutes" several years later, Minogue said that her cancer battle taught her to begin putting herself first.
Even men can get breast cancer, as Kiss drummer Peter Criss discovered. In 2008 he was diagnosed with the disease after noticing a painful lump in his chest while working out. Luckily, the cancer was treated before it could spread. To raise awareness surrounding the issue, Criss has publicly talked about his health scare in interviews. He now gets regular mammograms.
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