Celebrities Who Have Overcome Breast Cancer

Not that long ago, a breast cancer diagnosis was a death sentence. Now, thanks to doctors, scientists, and researchers, breast cancer is more curable than ever before. Also, thanks to mammogram technology, doctors can catch breast cancer early and treat it before any disfiguring surgery is necessary. Still, some women catch signs of breast cancer earlier than others, and total mastectomies are still a common form of treatment for late-stage breast cancer.

All of the celebrities on this list have faced breast cancer in one way or another, and because they sought medical help, they are all still here to tell the tale today.

Rita Wilson Was Diagnosed At Age 58

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Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images
Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

Rita Wilson is a fantastic actress in her own right, but she’s also well known for being Tom Hanks’ other half. When Rita was 58-years-old, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had an invasive lobular carcinoma and underwent a double mastectomy. She had reconstructive surgery a while after doctors performed the mastectomy.

Rita was initially told that she didn’t have breast cancer, but she decided to ask for a second opinion. “You have nothing to lose if both opinions match up for the good, and everything to gain if something that was missed is found, which does happen. Early diagnosis is key,” she told People magazine. Rita is now 100% cancer-free.

Maura Tierney Left Her Parenthood Role Due To Her Cancer Diagnosis

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Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for IMDb
Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for IMDb

Maura Tierney had already begun filming the pilot for NBC’s Parenthood when she received a breast cancer diagnosis. This was back in 2009 when Maura was 42 years old. Maura decided to step back from her role as Sarah Braverman and focus on getting healthy. The role was eventually taken over by Lauren Graham.

Tierney went through several months of chemotherapy, but she is now healthy and in remission. She is involved with several cancer-related charities including the Johnson Cancer Research Foundation at UCLA and Stand Up To Cancer.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus Shared Her Diagnosis In A Tweet

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Photo by David Crotty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images
Photo by David Crotty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Julia Louis-Dreyfus was on top of the world when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was slaying the comedy game with her show Veep and she was winning Emmy after Emmy after Emmy. In September 2017, she tweeted, “1 in 8 women get breast cancer. Today, I’m the one.”

She added that she was lucky to be surrounded by an amazing support system and that she felt fortunate to have a good insurance plan. She continued, “so let’s fight all cancers and make universal health care a reality.”

Wanda Sykes Found Out About Her Cancer After Getting A Breast Reduction

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Photo by Gary Gershoff/Getty Images
Photo by Gary Gershoff/Getty Images

Wanda Sykes had an elective breast reduction surgery in 2011, but when she went under the knife, doctors realized that she had ductal carcinoma in situ. This is also known as stage 0 breast cancer.

Sykes decided to have a double mastectomy even though her cancer could have been treated chemically. She didn’t want to suffer the side effects of chemotherapy. “Can you just see me onstage going through mood swings?” Sykes said in a People interview. “And I have 2-year-old twins; I don’t want to be the crazy, sweaty mommy,” she added.

Cynthia Nixon Had A Feeling She Would Get Breast Cancer

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Photo by Santiago Felipe/Getty Images
Photo by Santiago Felipe/Getty Images

Cynthia Nixon is best known for playing Miranda Hobbs on the HBO series Sex and the City. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006 when she was 40 years old. Nixon’s mother is also a breast cancer survivor, so Nixon had a feeling that she was genetically predisposed to developing the disease.

Nixon said, “I always sort of thought, ‘I’m probably going to get breast cancer. There’s a really good chance.'” Nixon is now cancer-free and an ambassador for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

Melissa Ethridge Wanted To Be Honest With Her Fans

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Frank Micelotta/Getty Images
Frank Micelotta/Getty Images

Melissa Ethridge is living proof that cancer does not discriminate. If this tough rocker chick can get breast cancer, anyone can. Ethridge was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004 when she was 43 years old. She said, “This turned out to be a very good thing. I stopped. I looked at my life; I looked at my body and spirit. I got a new perspective. That’s brought me incredible clarity and a lot of peace.”

Etheridge decided to make a bold statement by performing at the 2005 Grammys completely bald (a side effect of her chemotherapy treatments). “Why should I hide my truth? I had cancer. I had chemotherapy. I lost my hair. There’s no shame in that,” she said.

Kylie Minogue Found The Silver Lining

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Photo by Samir Hussein/WireImage
Photo by Samir Hussein/WireImage

Australian singer Kylie Minogue was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was quite young. She was only 36 in 2005 when she received her diagnosis.

Kylie said, “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.” Kylie is now involved with several cancer charities and organizations.

Robin Roberts Found A Lump In Her Own Breast

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Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Robin Roberts, the beloved anchor of ABC’s Good Morning America, helped diagnose her own breast cancer. She found out she had the disease back in 2007 when she was 46 years old. Roberts told Prevention, “I found my lump in a self-exam! Because I was familiar with my body and the lumps, I knew this one felt different. It was in a different place on my breast, and it was hard. If I hadn’t been doing self-exams, I wouldn’t have known that.”

Roberts recovered from cancer after receiving a lumpectomy and chemotherapy.

Guiliana Rancic Knew She Had To Be Strong

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Photo by Randy Brooke/WireImage
Photo by Randy Brooke/WireImage

Host and television personality Giuliana Rancic was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 when she was 36 years old.

Giuliana said, “The one word I always saw in all the messages was strong. You’re so strong, stay strong, be strong—when you hear something enough, you start believing it.” Rancic had a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. She is now cancer-free and loving her life as a mother. Her son, Edward Duke, was born in 2012 via surrogate.

Christina Applegate Found A Way To Give Back

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Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images
Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images

Christina Applegate is best known for playing Veronica Corningstone opposite Will Ferrel’s Ron Burgundy in the hit comedy Anchorman. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 when she was 36 years old.

Following her diagnosis, she took her health into her own hands saying, “There’s a certain way in which [food is] prepared and a certain way that you’re eating that’s geared toward healing.” Applegate founded Right Action for Women, an organization that raises breast cancer awareness and helps fund screenings for women who don’t have insurance.

Edie Falco Kept Her Diagnosis A Secret At First

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Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage
Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage

Back in 2003, when actress Edie Falco was still working on The Sopranos, she found out that she had breast cancer. Edie was 40 years old at the time.

She said, “I take very good care of myself (mostly because I didn’t many years ago), and that served me well during chemo.” Falco kept her diagnosis a secret from the public and her Sopranos co-workers because she didn’t want to be seen as weak. It was only later, after going into remission, that she began to speak out and advocate for women’s health issues.

Olivia Newton-John Advocates For Self-Examination

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Photo by Rachel Luna/FilmMagic
Photo by Rachel Luna/FilmMagic

Olivia Newton-John is an Australian actress and singer best known for playing Sandy in the movie musical Grease. Olivia was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992 when she was 43 years old. She now works as a spokesperson for the Liv Breast Self Examination Kit, which helps women detect signs of breast cancer early.

“Be very vigilant about your own breast health and take note of what’s going on,” she has said. “If you do find something that doesn’t feel right, go get it checked out and insist on a mammogram.”

Kathy Bates Always Lands On Her Feet

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Photo by Gary Miller/Getty Images
Photo by Gary Miller/Getty Images

Kathy Bates has proven her acting chops time and time again. She even has an Academy Award to her name. In 2012, when she was 64 years old, Kathy Bates was diagnosed with breast cancer. She chose to have a double mastectomy shortly after she was diagnosed.

“My family calls me Kat because I always land on my feet and thankfully this is no exception,” she said. A while later, she tweeted, “I don’t miss my breasts as much as I miss Harry’s Law. 🙂 Thanks for all the sweet tweets. Y’all keep me going.”

Suzanne Somers Pioneered An Experimental Procedure

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Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic
Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Suzanne Somers of Three’s Company was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001 at the age of 55. She underwent a lumpectomy which caused her to lose half of her breast. She wasn’t happy with her appearance after the surgery, so she started looking into reconstructive options.

She found out about cell-assisted lipotransfer, or stem cell breast reconstruction, which seemed like a good option for her. She helped advocate for medical trials in the United States for the procedure, which was still in development. She then became the first American woman to have the procedure done.

Sheryl Crow Became An Advocate

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Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

Sheryl Crow was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006 when she was 44 years old. Since then she has become a huge advocate for breast cancer awareness. She even lobbied Congress to pass the Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Act.

In 2011 she said, “Anyone who’s diagnosed with anything will agree that such news is not only a showstopper but also an opportunity to recreate the way you live and how you look at life. It was for me.”

Carly Simon Advocated For Her Own Health

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Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images
Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Carly Simon found a lump in her breast and went to several doctors to have it looked at. They all told her that it was nothing to worry about, but she chose to have a lumpectomy anyway. That turned out to be a good choice on her part because the lump was cancerous. She underwent chemotherapy and reconstructive surgery.

“It really changes an awful lot of things,” she told The Independent, “It allows you to grow a great deal because it makes you accept what’s new and different and maybe a little misshapen or not having testosterone and feeling hot flushes.”

Dame Maggie Smith Was Diagnosed While Filming Harry Potter

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Photo by David M Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images
Photo by David M Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images

Dame Maggie Smith was 74 years old when she found out that she had breast cancer. At the time, she was filming for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Smith was determined to continue working on the film even while undergoing chemotherapy.

“I was hairless,” Smith told The Telegraph. “I had no problem getting the wig on. I was like a boiled egg.” She continued, “The last couple of years have been a write-off, though I’m beginning to feel like a person now. My energy is coming back. [Expletive] happens. I ought to pull myself together a bit.”

Gloria Steinem Had A Lumpectomy

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Photo by Marla Aufmuth/WireImage
Photo by Marla Aufmuth/WireImage

Gloria Steinem is a famous feminist and women’s rights advocate. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1986. She had a lumpectomy following her diagnosis and has been cancer-free ever since.

Steinem said, “It made me realize several things. One was – this may sound strange if I try to say it short – but that, actually, I wasn’t – I was less afraid of dying than of aging – or not of aging, exactly. I didn’t know how to enter the last third of life because there were so few role models because when I first heard this diagnosis, first, I thought, ironically, oh, so that’s how it’s going to end, you know? And then I thought to myself, as if it was welling up from the deepest part of me, I’ve had a wonderful life. And I treasure that moment. You know, it meant a lot to me.”

Tig Notaro Joked About Her Cancer On Stage

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Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for Clusterfest
Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for Clusterfest

Tig Notaro found out that she had breast cancer during a particularly difficult time in her life. She was also dealing with gut issues, her mother had just died, and she wasn’t feeling like herself. She stepped on stage in 2012 and gave a wonderfully transgressive stand-up comedy performance the same day that she received her diagnosis.

Tig had a double mastectomy and is now cancer-free. Her career exploded thanks in part to that unconventional stand-up set.

Angelina Jolie Changed The Game

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Photo by Ian West/PA Images via Getty Images
Photo by Ian West/PA Images via Getty Images

Back in 2013, actress Angelina Jolie tested positive for a BRCA1 mutation. She knew she had a family history of breast cancer, and the discovery of this gene in her DNA meant that her chances of developing breast cancer in the future were astronomically high. Jolie decided to take extreme preventative measures and undergo a double mastectomy.

The procedure reduced her risk of developing breast cancer from an estimated 87% down to approximately 5%. Jolie has since had reconstructive surgery.