Celebs Who Survived Breast Cancer

Hollywood’s public battles with the disease not only helped raised funds and awareness, but also inspired millions worldwide. Find out what they learned about themselves in the process here

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Christina Applegate

Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 when she was 36, Applegate opened up about her cancer ordeal and bilateral mastectomy for MORE's November 2012 cover story. Despite being pleased with the artistry of her reconstruction, the Emmy-award winning actress joked, “Aw, I miss my exquisite breasts sometimes,” referencing a line from her comedy Anchorman. After her medical procedure, the star partnered with a new cause, Right Action for Women. Created for women who are at a high risk for breast cancer, the organization funds diagnostic MRIs, a test that may not be covered by insurance.  Applegate told MORE that she did not mind taking on the cancer career that high-profile survivors are expected to adopt. 

Photo by: Albert L. Ortega/ PR Photos

Giuliana Rancic

E! News host Giuliana Rancic had been trying to get pregnant via in vitro fertilization when she was diagnosed with breast cancer after a 2011 mammogram.  Then 37 years old, Rancic put her fertility struggles aside and had a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. In August 2012, she celebrated the birth of her son via surrogate.


Image courtesy of Joe Seer/shutterstock.com


Wanda Sykes

Wanda Sykes was diagnosed with breast cancer after a breast reduction procedure, which she underwent because “I had really big boobs and I just got tired of knocking over stuff," she joked during a 2011 interview with Ellen DeGeneres. When the pathology results from her reduction found ductal carcinoma in situ in her left breast, she underwent a double mastectomy. Sykes kept her sense of humor about the health scare. “How many things could I have? I'm black, then lesbian. I can't be the poster child for everything ... At least with the LGBT issues we get a parade, we get a float, it's a party.”


Image courtesy of s_bukley/shutterstock.com


Robin Roberts

The Good Morning America co-host didn’t expect that one day she would become a news story. In 2007, Roberts announced she was diagnosed with breast cancer and would begin treatment. She not only continued to co-anchor GMA, but openly shared her experiences for viewers to see, including her celebratory final day of chemotherapy. But treatment for her breast cancer may well have contributed to her developing a new form of cancer.  In June 2012 Roberts was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) (also known as preleukemia). She underwent a successfull bone marrow transplant in September 2012 and returned to work in February 2013.

Photo by: Chris Hatcher/PR Photos

Ann Romney

Cancer is in Ann Romney's family: her mother and grandmother died of ovarian cancer and her great-grandmother died of breast cancer. Diagnosed herself with breast cancer in 2009, Romney was grateful that the disease was caught early.  In an interview with America's Radio News in 2012 Romney said of her cancer struggles, which included surgery and radiation treatment, “You don't fight them alone, you fight them with friends and with family.” 


Image couresty of Maria Dryfhout/shutterstock.com


Judy Blume

After author Judy Blume was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma in June 2012, she posted on her blog: “I’ve joined the club – not one I wanted to join or even thought I would ever be joining – but here I am. I am part of this Sisterhood of the Traveling Breast Cells.” She had a mastectomy in July six weeks after her diagnosis. One month after successful surgery Blume wrote on her blog that she was "feeling stronger every day" and grateful for the "network of amazing women" who helped her through.



Image courtesy of Brad Camembert/shutterstock.com


Martina Navratilova

A routine mammogram in January 2010 found a lump in tennis great Martina Navratilova, who was 53 years old at the time. The next month, a biopsy confirmed it was ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS, a noninvasive form of breast cancer. "I heard on February 24, which is kind of my 9/11,” she said. “You don't forget the day when your life is completely changed forever." Thankfully the cancer was isolated and hadn’t spread. A lumpectomy on March 15 removed the cancerous cells. “I'm just thankful that I caught it when I did,” said Navratilova, who had put off getting mammograms previously. “I'll be very meticulous now about going to the doctor and getting those six month check ups and one year check ups. I'm not going to let that lapse again."

Art Streiber

Cynthia Nixon

Best known as the spunky Miranda in Sex and the City, the actress was diagnosed at 42, while starring in the off-Broadway play The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, then quietly had a lumpectomy and radiation. Nixon has served as an ambassador for Susan G. Komen for the Cure and appeared in radio and television public service announcements. Nixon’s mother survived the disease twice, which made her aware of her higher chances of developing the cancer. "As a daughter of a breast cancer survivor," Nixon has said, "knowing my personal risk made me more aware and more empowered when I faced my diagnosis."
Photo by: Janet Mayer/PR Photos

Maura Tierney

The former ER star’s breast cancer treatment in 2009 necessitated her withdrawing from NBC’s series Parenthood. "I’m very optimistic about the outcome and look forward to going back to work soon," Tierney said at the time-and indeed in February 2010 she was costarring in a play, and by spring she had filmed some new episodes of Rescue Me.
Photo by: GL/PR Photos

Diahann Carroll

Diahann Carroll, the first African-American performer to have her own TV series, was 63 years old when a routine mammogram found breast cancer in 1998. The tumor was less than a centimeter in size and was successfully removed via a lumpectomy. Carroll credits the mammogram for catching her cancer early. "Fear of the unknown is a deterrent for some women," said Carroll. "But I had to realize that knowing what is happening in my body is far preferable to wondering what might be happening. The simple truth is that regular screening saved my life—period."

Tina Gill / PR Photos

Hoda Kotb

Kotb had a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery when she was 42, and several months later shared her video diary of her battle with viewers of the Today Show. "The most surprising side effect of cancer is that it has given me more courage than I ever thought possible," she has said.
Photo by: RD/Dziekan/Retna Digital

Betsey Johnson

Betsey Johnson may be known for her loud clothes, but this New York designer kept quiet after discovering a small lump in her breast when one of her saline implants deflated during a massage. At first, Johnson only told her daughter Lulu, worried about jeopardizing her business. But eventually she began using her business to support the fight against breast cancer, designing tees that would be sold to raise money for research and awareness. "With over 3 million women battling breast cancer today, everywhere you turn there is a mother, daughter, sister, or friend who has been affected by breast cancer," said Johnson. "This is a great opportunity for me to put my design style to work in raising funds for something so important."

Moises De Pena / PR Photos


Doctors found a lump when this singer was 34 and preparing for a breast reduction. Successfully treated with radiation, she has said, "I feel great now. I’m really lucky that I was given the opportunity to walk through the eye of something so terrifying. Although at points I was crawling!" She established the Anastacia Fund in partnership with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation to raise funds for research on breast cancer in younger women.
Photo by: Janet Mayer/PR Photos

Richard Roundtree

Yes, men get breast cancer, too. Richard Roundtree, best known for his role as detective John Shaft in the 1970s action film Shaft, found a lump in his right breast in 1993. "I'm a hypochondriac," he said. "As soon as I felt the lump I immediately went to my doctor." Roundtree received chemotherapy, radiation and a mastectomy to beat his breast cancer. Initially, he says, the most difficult part of being ill was hiding it from the entertainment industry. "No insurance company would insure me if they found out. And in order to work on a film, you need the stamp of approval from an insurance company. So unfortunately I had to keep it a secret."

Brandi Pettijohn / PR Photos

Carly Simon

In 1997, Simon was diagnosed with a cancerous lump. "It really changes an awful lot of things," she has said of her diagnosis and treatment. "It allows you to grow a great deal because it makes you accept what’s new and different."
Photo by: Janet Mayer/PR Photos

Gloria Steinem

When Gloria Steinem discovered a pea-size lump above her right breast she was living a frantic life, having not stayed in the same town for more than eight days during the previous 15 years. A mammogram failed to detect the cancerous cells inside the lump, but a year later her doctor removed it anyway—just to be safe—and discovered it was indeed cancer. Steinem says she expected the worse, but a lymph-node sample confirmed that the tumor was self-contained. The only thing she was left with was a one-inch scar. "My experience was so much less than what most women go through,” Steinem told People. But it still scared her into making changes, such as becoming a vegetarian, taking up yoga and scheduling vacations. "I think the art of life is not controlling what happens," she says, "but using it."

Marco Sagliocco / PR Photos

Nancy Reagan

In 1987, when a routine mammogram detected what was later diagnosed as breast cancer in First Lady Nancy Reagan, she chose to have a mastectomy over a lumpectomy. The decision was controversial at the time but Reagan defended it, telling Barbara Walters during an interview: ''I couldn't possibly lead the kind of life I lead, and keep the schedule that I do, having radiation or chemotherapy. There'd be no way. Maybe if I'd been 20 years old, hadn't been married, hadn't had children, I would feel completely differently. But for me it was right.''

AFP/Getty Images

Jaclyn Smith

The former Charlie’s Angel discovered she had Stage 1 breast cancer in 2003. "I can’t stress how important your girlfriends become when you are diagnosed with breast cancer," she has said.
Photo by: Albert L. Ortega/ PR Photos

Kylie Minogue

The Australian pop songstress was initially misdiagnosed and told she was "all right and had nothing to worry about," just days before she went on her greatest hits tour. She was correctly diagnosed at 36 and properly treated. "I remember those days when you have come through the darkest time of life-so close to death-to re-emerge renewed into the technicolor of life." Minogue has said, She has contributed to the fight by auctioning off her bras to raise money for breast cancer research.
Photo by: Solarpix/PR Photos

Janet Napolitano

Napolitano, at the time the Attorney General of Arizona, had a mastectomy after being diagnosed in 2000, three weeks before she addressed the Democratic National Convention. "Work and family helped me focus on other things while I battled the cancer," Napolitano, who is now secretary for Homeland Security, has said.
Photo by: Fernando Castillo/LatinContent/Getty Images

Sheryl Crow

At age 44, this Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter underwent minimally invasive surgery for breast cancer. Involved in the Stand Up To Cancer organization, which aims to raise funds for cancer research and new therapies, Crow once lobbied Congress in favor of a bill that would fund research into environmental links with the disease. Crow has said, "I want to know what causes this disease-for me and for the 2.3 million others who share this diagnosis."
Photo by: Albert L. Ortega/PR Photos

Peggy Fleming

In 1998, 30 years after winning Olympic gold in figure skating, Fleming was diagnosed and treated for early-stage breast cancer. She and her husband, Greg Jenkins, now contribute a percentage of the cost of every bottle of Victories Rosé wine that their vineyard produces to aid breast cancer research and awareness.
Photo by: Sara De Boer/Retna

Edie Falco

The Nurse Jackie star and former Sopranos matriarch knows how to play a determined woman, both on- and off-screen. When she was diagnosed in 2003, Falco told herself, "I am a strong woman. I have resources to get good treatment, so why not me? Better me than some single mom of three. I can handle this." Falco has appeared in national public service ads with actress Cynthia Nixon for Stand Up To Cancer, to help educate cancer patients about lowering the risks of infection during treatment.
Photo by: Glenn Harris/PR Photos

Cokie Roberts

The ABC news analyst’s cancer was discovered during a routine breast exam by her doctor, when she was 58. She made a public announcement and continued to work during her chemo treatments. In 2010, she and other journalists and breast cancer survivors sent a letter to the Washington D.C. media, urging them to take part in the Susan G. Komen Global Race for the Cure on June 5 of that year on the National Mall.

Photo by: Zack Seckler/Getty Images

Melissa Etheridge

Rock goddess Melissa Etheridge is not shy about exposing her battles-and her breast cancer treatment was no exception. After receiving chemotherapy in 2005, Etheridge performed at the Grammy Awards-and triumphantly displayed her bald head and missing eyebrows. "Chemotherapy tests your sanity," she has said. "It was very hard. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.. . .Yet there is an amazing clarity to it that I’m grateful for," The singer donated the proceeds from her song I Run For Life to breast cancer charities and has a website page devoted to breast cancer awareness.
Photo by: Chris Hatcher/PR Photos

Kate Jackson

Jackson was starring in Scarecrow and Mrs. King when she was first treated for breast cancer in 1987; two years later more disease was found in the same breast and she was treated more aggressively. "I really made a conscious decision to be positive," Jackson has said of her recovery. "When I had a negative thought, I pushed it away."
Photo by: Glenn Harris/Photorazzi/PR Photos

Olivia Newton-John

The Australian singer-actress, whose breakout role was in the mega-hit film Grease, confronted breast cancer in the 1990s. Newton-John’s survival lead her to partner with the Austin Health care center in Australia and create the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Center (ONJCC) located in her hometown of Melbourne. The center provides a full range of services for cancer treatment, education and training. Newton-John has said, "I am committed and excited about educating and encouraging women to take a positive role in their breast health."
Photo by: Lee Roth/PR Photos

Jill Eikenberry

Best known for L.A. Law, Eikenberry became a breast cancer research activist and sought-after speaker on the subject after battling the disease at the age of 39. A documentary she co-produced for NBC, Destined to Live, won a Humanitas Prize in 1989.
Photo by: RD/Leon/Retna Digital

Sandra Day O’Connor

The former Supreme Court justice was treated for the disease in 1988, returning to the bench five days after her mastectomy to hear a sex discrimination case. Six years later, she went public with her experience in a speech to the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship.
Photo by: Charles Ommanney/Getty Images

Suzanne Somers

Being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001 was a shocker to a woman who has built a career on self-help health and fitness remedies. Suzanne Somers, an actress, motivational speaker and entrepreneur, was criticized for choosing controversial alternative cancer treatments and opposing chemotherapy after she had a lumpectomy. "All my life my breasts have gotten me into trouble. When I was a model they were always too big and on Three’s Company I was queen of the jiggle. It just seems like my breasts are a big part of me, and once again here they are," Somers once said.
Photo by: Ken McCoy/PR Photos

Dorothy Hamill

As an Olympic champion figure skater, Hamill has a slew of titles to her name-but breast cancer survivor was not one she sought. Diagnosed in 2007, Hamill has since returned to skating. Hamill found a new cause by speaking in national public service ads for the non-profit Cancer Project about how a healthy diet can help ward off the disease. Hamil has said, "Your body is an instrument of expression-and mine still has a lot to say."
Photo by: David Gabber/PR Photos

Nanci Griffith

This country-folk icon is a survivor of both breast and thyroid cancer, treated in the 1990s. "I live for today," she has said. "If I’m at a party, I don’t think about the next party I’m going to go to-I’m gonna enjoy that party right now."
Photo by: Matthew Peyton/Getty Images

Linda Ellerbee

This broadcast vet had a double mastectomy when she was 47. Last year, she added her voice to the debate about mammography age recommendations in a piece for the Los Angeles Times. "Nearly 18 years later," Ellerbee wrote, "I still consider the trade of my breasts for my life to have been a fair one, and I know I survived in large part because of (relatively) early detection."

Photo by: Retna Ltd.

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