17 celebrities who spoke out about their battles with cancer

Getty ImagesThere have been 1.7 million more diagnoses of cancer this year.

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 1.7 million new cases will be diagnosed in the United States in 2018, and more than 600,000 will die from the disease. Cancer doesn’t discriminate, and being a celebrity doesn’t shield anyone from the disease.

In the past several years, a number of famous faces have spoken publicly about their own experiences battling cancer.

From actor Ben Stiller, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer several years ago, to singer Sheryl Crow, who has become an advocate for early detection tests for breast cancer, these celebrities have spoken out about their cancer diagnoses and treatments.


Olivia Newton-John is in the midst of her third battle with breast cancer.

Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty ImagesNewton-John is battling cancer for the third time.

In September 2018, the 70-year-old singer and actress announced she was postponing her North American concert tour after she was diagnosed with cancer for a third time. In a Facebook post, Newton-John wrote that a tumour had metastasized in her lower back and she was undergoing radiation treatment.

The “Grease” star was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992. She underwent nine months of chemotherapy and had a mastectomy. In 2013, doctors found that the cancer had returned and had spread to her shoulder.


It took Fran Drescher years to be properly diagnosed with uterine cancer.

Mark Davis/GettyDrescher had to have a hysterectomy.

The 61-year-old actress told the Washington Post she saw eight doctors over the course of two years before she was properly diagnosed with uterine cancer in 2000. The “Nanny” star underwent a hysterectomy to treat the disease and wrote about her experiences in the book “Cancer Schmancer.” Drescher has since formed a non-profit organisation dedicated to helping women recognise the early warning signs of the disease.

“I’m not glad I had cancer. I don’t wish it on anyone,” she told People in October 2018. “But I am better for it. It’s deepened me as a human being. It’s forced me to have a life that resonates with other people’s needs, with compassion and a sensitivity to other people’s pain.”


Jane Fonda had a cancerous growth removed from her lip in 2018.

Jon OringerThis was Fonda’s second brush with cancer.

The “Grace and Frankie” star showed up to an interview in January with a bandage on her lip and explained she’d recently had a growth removed.

“I just want to explain the bandage. I just had a cancer taken from my lip,” Fonda said in an interview with BUILD Series. “I thought it was going to heal in time before I came before you, but it’s fine. I just want to explain it. I don’t normally go around like this.”

In an interview with Howard Stern later that day, Fonda said doctors had biopsied the growth and she was going to be “fine.”

The 80-year-old had previously been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010.


Julia Louis-Dreyfus was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017.

Kevin Winter/Getty ImagesDreyfus was diagnosed with breast cancer but became cancer-free after chemotherapy.

After revealing she had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017, the “VEEP” star is cancer-free. The 57-year-old actress underwent three rounds of chemotherapy and told Jimmy Kimmel the good news when she visited his late night show in October.

The actress also said that she decided to speak out about her diagnosis and share updates on her treatment because she wanted to take the opportunity to advocate for affordable health care.

“I think it’s an important conversation to have about health and health care,” she told Kimmel. “I very much considered the notion that as someone battling this disease, the idea that I might not have health insurance, which I do thanks to my great union, is completely terrifying.”


Ben Stiller said he’s cancer-free after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2014.

carrie-nelson / Shutterstock.comStiller has been cancer free for four years now.

The “Zoolander” star underwent surgery to remove a tumour when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2014. The 52-year-old gave fans an update on his health when he visited the “Today” show in 2017 and revealed he was “three years, now, cancer-free.”

The star came forward about his own battle so that he could encourage men to undergo early detection screening tests.

“And I’m really happy that getting the word out there, about the PSA [prostate-specific antigen] test, has actually made a little bit of a difference, I think,” he said during his appearance on the “Today” show. “A lot of people talk to me, and also the United States Preventive Services Task Force changed their guideline and recommended that you speak with your doctor about taking the test. So, I think it’s a good move.”


Cynthia Nixon learned she had breast cancer when it was still in its early stages thanks to a routine mammogram.

GettyNixon’s story proves that routine mammograms are important.

“The Sex and the City” star underwent six and a half weeks of radiation therapy and a lumpectomy when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006.

In 2011, the actress told CURE that a routine mammogram was able to detect the tumour while it was still small:

“My cancer was found during a routine mammogram when I was 40. Because my mother had breast cancer twice, I started getting mammograms when I was 35,” she said. “I think that speaks volumes of how important it is to get mammograms, how important it is to get them regularly and how important it is to get them young. If I had started when I was 40, maybe they wouldn’t have caught it.”


Christina Applegate has undergone multiple surgeries since she was diagnosed with cancer in 2008.

Jamie McCarthy/Getty ImagesApplegate had a double mastectomy.

The “Bad Mums” star underwent a double mastectomy when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. In 2017, the actress took the precautionary measure to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed because she’s a carrier of the BRCA1 gene mutation, which increases her risk of developing cancer.

“When I first came out about my breast cancer I didn’t want to talk about it, but I had to, because young women were getting it, and people weren’t understanding that,” Applegate told People in April 2018. “They weren’t understanding that women that were 36 were getting breast cancer, or women that were 28 were getting breast cancer, and they were opting not to get MRIs when they were high-risk because of the cost. My activism came out.”


Hugh Jackman has battled skin cancer since 2013.

Slaven Vlasic/Getty ImagesJackman had a basal cell carcinoma removed from his nose.

The “X-Men” star has had multiple cancer scares and surgeries since he was diagnosed with skin cancer in 2013.

“It’s a basal cell carcinoma,” the 50-year-old actor said when he appeared on “Live! with Kelly” in 2017 and had a bandage on his nose. “Everything’s fine. It is skin cancer, but the least dangerous form of it. So it’s just something I have to get out.”

The actor has been public about his health issues and used his own battle as an opportunity to encourage people to wear sunscreen.


Maura Tierney had a mastectomy and underwent chemo when she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer in 2009.

Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Audi)Tierney was worried about chemotherapy.

“The Affair” star told Everyday Health that she was more afraid of the side effects chemotherapy than of the cancer itself. After discovering the treatments weren’t as bad as she feared she teamed up with the pharmaceutical company, Amgen, for a campaign to end myths about chemotherapy.

“The campaign really just spoke to my personal experience with treatment. The idea behind it is to create a place where people can go to educate themselves about what’s about to happen to them. There are a lot of misconceptions out there,” she said.


Wanda Sykes had a double mastectomy after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011.

Angela Weiss/GettySyke’s doctors found her cancer after breast reduction surgery.

The comedian told People she was surprised by her breast cancer diagnosis since she recently had a mammogram and a biopsy, which both came back negative. It was only after Sykes had breast reduction surgery, that her doctors found the cancer.

“I was a size triple-D. That’s a lot of boob, so I really wanted the reductions,” Sykes told People. “After the surgery they sent the tissue samples in, which is standard procedure, and it tested positive for DCIS [ductal carcinoma in situ, a noninvasive type of breast cancer].”

Sykes had a double mastectomy to treat the cancer and told People, “I have a history of breast cancer in my family too, so I was going to do whatever it took to reduce my chances of getting an invasive cancer.”


Michael C. Hall was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2010.

Matthew Eisman/ Getty ImagesHall had had a fear of dying young.

The “Dexter” star told the New York Times he had anxiety about dying young since his father died of prostate cancer at age 39.

“I think I’ve been preoccupied since I was 11, and my father died, with the idea of the age 39: Would I live that long? What would that be like? To discover that I had the Hodgkin’s was alarming, but at the same time I felt kind of bemused, like: Wow. Huh. How interesting,” he said.


Melissa Etheridge famously performed at the Grammy Awards in 2005 while she was still undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

Rick Diamond/Getty ImagesEtheridge’s diagnosis didn’t stop her from doing what she loves.

While finishing up treatment for breast cancer, the singer took to the Grammys stage alongside Joss Stone to pay tribute to Janis Joplin. In 2018, the singer told Entertainment Weekly that she immediately wanted to participate in tribute and then she realised, “Oh, I’m going to be bald.”

The singer added that she had to really consider if she was going to have enough energy.

“I felt it was an opportunity for me to step back into what I loved to do,” she said. “I mean, 10 years ago when you were diagnosed, people thought, ‘That’s it, she’s out of here,’ you know? So I wanted to show people that no, I’ve been through hell, yeah, this is awful but I am not dying. I wanted to present myself as, ‘I’m back, I’m not weak, this has made me stronger.’ I just didn’t want anyone to make fun of me.”


Sheryl Crow has been cancer-free for more than a decade and advocates for early detection tests.

GettyCrow’s diagnosis changed her perspective.

The singer had a lumpectomy and seven weeks of radiation treatment when she a diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006. In 2016, she told reporters at the #BlogHer16 exposition that her diagnosis was “a real game changer.”

“At that point, I was 44, and I was the picture of great health,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of people say, ‘Yeah, these things help you redefine your life,’ but for me, I really refined my life.I began to really hack away at the things that were not important anymore and the things that were energy sucking. I learned how to say no.”


Giuliana Rancic discovered she had breast cancer while undergoing fertility treatments in 2011.

Isaac Brekken/Getty ImagesRancic was shocked by her diagnosis.

“When I found out I had breast cancer, I was 36 years old with no family history,” the E! News personality told Health.com in April 2018. “It was such a shock and I was going through IVF, and my doctor told me I had to get a mammogram before treatment.”

When a lumpectomy failed to remove all the cancer, Rancic underwent a double mastectomy and has been cancer-free ever since.


Kathy Bates survived both breast and ovarian cancer.

When the actress was diagnosed with early stage ovarian cancer in 2003, she kept diagnosis as well as her treatment — surgery and nine months of chemotherapy — private.

Bates told People that her agent at the time didn’t want her to be the “poster child” for ovarian cancer.

“I didn’t want anyone to know, but it really took a lot out of me,” she said.

In 2012, she was diagnosed with breast cancer the actress decided it was time to go public with her health problems. She underwent a double mastectomy and told People she was lucky not to have to undergo radiation or treatment again.

“My family call me Kat because I always land on my feet and thankfully this is no exception,” she said.


Edie Falco credits her sobriety with helping her beat cancer.

Frazer Harrison / Getty ImagesIt was important to Falco to keep her diagnosis under the radar.

By the time “The Sopranos” star went public in 2004 about her battle with the breast cancer, she had already completed treatment.

She told Health.com: “It was very important for me to keep my diagnosis under the radar, even from the cast and crew of ‘The Sopranos’ because well-meaning people would have driven me crazy asking, ‘How are you feeling?” I would have wanted to say, ‘I’m scared, I don’t feel so good, and my hair is falling out.'”

The actress also revealed in a 2009 interview with Parade that she believes her long-held sobriety helped her beat the disease.

“I had really been taking care of myself for about 15 years before I got sick-not drinking, not smoking, eating well-so I fared very well,” she said. “They gave me very strong chemo drugs. I was so lucky that two of the biggest things in my life-my sobriety and my breast cancer-happened in the order they happened. And I’ve been in therapy since time began,” she jokes. “Maybe that helped a little, too, on some level.”


Shannen Doherty said her battle with cancer made her a “better human being.”

Kevork Djansezian/Getty ImagesDoherty was open about her diagnosis and treatment.

The “Charmed” star was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015 and underwent chemo, radiation and surgery to treat the disease. In a 2018 interview with “Good Morning America,” the actress focused on the positives that came out of her diagnosis.

“I think it made me a better actor, I also think it made me a better human being,” she said. “It takes down all your walls, all your barriers, everything that life sort of threw at you…you’re guarding yourself so yea, that all comes tumbling down.”

Doherty was very open about her treatment and frequently shared updates on social media.

“I know sharing helped me because when I got back, these beautiful stories from other people, what they were going through… giving me hope and support and love, it really helped,” she said. “It’s truly a family. There’s something so beautiful about the journey.”

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