Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer that affects women all over the world. In the United States alone, 1 in every 8 women is predicted to develop breast cancer throughout her lifetime, which means that 252,710 American women are likely to fall victim to the disease.
Breast cancer affects any woman regardless of age and social status. It is therefore not surprising that even the most popular names in Hollywood have been diagnosed with the disease. Despite this, several female celebrities have overcome the battle with breast cancer.
Here are the stories of 10 stars and how they coped with their cancer:
“I laughed more in the hospital than I ever have in my life, making fun of all the weird things that were happening to me.”
As the daughter of a breast cancer survivor herself, actress Christina Applegate decided to undergo a lumpectomy when she was diagnosed with an early-stage breast cancer in 2008. But after learning that she tested positive for the BRCA gene, which makes her more susceptible to develop breast cancer, the Emmy award-winner opted to have a double mastectomy to prevent the disease from recurring.
“In the war against cancer, we have the ability to arm ourselves with knowledge. Education is a powerful tool. By taking action and doing something positive, fear is replaced with hope.”
Despite her many powerful roles in film, theater, and TV, none of them prepared Diahann Carroll for the hardest and most important role she had yet—being diagnosed with breast cancer. With no family history of the disease, the news came as a shock to the actress. But after a lumpectomy and 12 weeks of radiation therapy, the veteran performer defeated cancer and has been speaking about cancer awareness since.
“Once I overcame breast cancer, I wasn’t afraid of anything anymore. I now have a different relationship with fear. There are only two things in our reality, love and fear. I try to make my choices out of love.”
Renowned singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge discovered that she had stage 2 breast cancer in 2004. After the diagnosis, she underwent a lumpectomy in addition to having 15 lymph nodes removed. She also had five rounds of chemotherapy and radiation which helped her to become cancer-free. Following her journey with cancer, the Grammy award-winner wrote the song “I Run for Life” dedicated to other breast cancer survivors.
“I do not feel any less of a woman. I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity.”
This academy award winner known for numerous cinematic hits including Girl, Interrupted and Gia discovered that she was a BRCA1 gene carrier, which predisposed her to an 87% risk of developing breast cancer. In order to significantly reduce this risk, she underwent a preventive double mastectomy as well as immediate reconstruction with the use of implants in 2013 at the age of 37. Since this gene also increases her risks for ovarian cancer, she underwent preventive removal of her ovaries 2 years later.
During her journey, this famous actress and humanitarian detailed her personal experiences and is regarded as one of the prominent figures in raising awareness of genetic testing and the options available to BRCA-affected women.
“Cancer survivors are blessed with two lives. There is your life before cancer, and your life after. I am here to tell you your second life is going to be so much better than the first.”
After finding a lump in her breast, veteran TV news journalist Hoda Kotb did not expect that it would be cancerous. But after further diagnosis, her worst fear came true. Fortunately, because of early detection, the co-anchor of the Today show only needed to undergo mastectomy and reconstruction done to be rid of the disease. Throughout the treatment, Kotb used the word, “Forward,”to help her cope with cancer.
“I think when you have a disease it’s your responsibility to share all the information you can with as many people as you can. Hopefully you can affect change in someone else’s life and even save their life.”
Following a routine screening in 2015, celebrity chef Sandra Lee discovered she had ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS); a non-invasive cancer wherein abnormal cells line the milk duct. After diagnosis, the TV personality initially chose to undergo a lumpectomy but was advised to have a double mastectomy instead because of the late detection. The de facto First Lady of New York is now all clear and advocates for early mammographic screening.
“One important thing to know is you’re still the same person during it. You’re stripped down near zero. But it seems that most people come out at the other end feeling more like themselves than ever before. I’m more eager than ever to do what I did. I want to to do everything.”
The Australian superstar’s journey to becoming cancer-free had many ups and downs. At first, doctors told the Neighbours star that she did not have the disease. But after a second round of tests, the results showed that the singer was correct in questioning her initial diagnosis; she did in fact have breast cancer. After a partial mastectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation treatment, the “Princess of Pop” was finally and truly free of the disease.
“Cancer is really hard to go through and it’s really hard to watch someone you love go through, and I know because I have been on both sides of the equation.”
When the Sex and the City actress found out she had breast cancer in 2006, she was reluctant to disclose it to the public. However, after having a lumpectomy and going through a series of radiation therapies, she decided it would be best to share her story to help other women who could also be at risk. Now, the actress helps spread breast cancer awareness to women around the world.
“Life’s better now. I wouldn’t do it all over again, though. It’s funny how life works. Maybe it was meant to happen for many reasons, because my life in many ways is richer.”
In October 2011, the former E! News host found out she had an early-stage tumor during one of her IVF sessions for infertility. Following the diagnosis, the then 36-year-oldunderwent a lumpectomy in an attempt to treat the cancer. When the initial treatment failed to eradicate the disease, the reality star decided to have a double mastectomy followed by a reconstructive surgery. Later that same year, she was declared cancer-free.
“I’m stronger than I thought I was. My favorite phrase has been ‘This too shall pass.’ I now understand it really well.”
After years of making a living telling other people’s stories on TV, the anchor of ABC’s Good Morning America finally got the chance to share her own story when she revealed that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent surgery, chemotherapy, and 6 weeks of radiation therapy to treat the disease. As someone who battled breast cancer herself, she now speaks about the struggles that she and other patients faced in their journey to recovery.
“I feel more like me than ever. And there is a release in that.”
Having the support of friends and family after she was diagnosed with invasive lobular carcinoma is something actress Rita Wilson considers herself blessed for. From getting initially misdiagnosed to confirming her fear after asking for a second opinion, the singer-songwriter admitted to having a difficult time. She underwent a double mastectomy and reconstruction, having her supportive husband and loved ones to aid her through the process.
Feel Complete Once More
Getting diagnosed with breast cancer may easily be any woman’s worst fear, but as we have learned from the women above, the fight against breast cancer can be won. Every woman should be screened regularly as well as learn about her options for prevention and treatment just like the celebrities on this list continue to advocate for.
With early detection, breast cancer can be overcome with a variety of treatment modalities. In addition, breast reconstructive options also allow for affected women to feel complete once more.