Celebrities with breast cancer

HER2’s Genetic Link to Breast Cancer Spurs Development of New Treatments

Single breast cancer cell and microenviornment visualized by transparent tumor tomography.

Credit: National Cancer Institute

When NCI-supported researchers discovered that the HER2 gene is important for breast cancer growth, this led to the development of the drug trastuzumab and other targeted treatments that have improved survival for women with HER2-positive breast cancer.

Exploring Why Some Cancers Grow and Spread and Others Don’t

For years, doctors and researchers have noted that not all cancers are alike. Some patients’ tumors grow quite slowly and never spread beyond the site where they first formed. But for other patients, their tumors grow rapidly and spread like wildfire.

In the early 1980s, after the discovery that a mutated gene called HER2 could stimulate excessive cell growth and division, many scientists wondered if certain genes might make cancers grow and spread rapidly. Researchers around the world began searching for genes that spur cancer growth.

Blocking HER2 Slows or Stops Some Types of Breast Cancer

NCI-funded researcher Dennis Slamon, M.D., was among the many scientists searching for genes that can lead to cancer. In 1987, he and his colleagues discovered that the growth factor receptor gene HER2, which produces HER2 proteins, might be a good candidate.

At the same time, a team of NCI researchers led by Stuart Aaronson, M.D., were among the first to show that the HER2 protein could cause normal cells to grow uncontrollably like aggressive cancer cells.

Dr. Slamon’s team found that the HER2 protein is present at high levels (HER2 positive) in about 30 percent of breast cancers. They also discovered that high levels of HER2 are linked to a greater likelihood of metastasis and relapse and an overall decrease in patient survival. The group concluded that HER2 might play a role in the development and growth of breast cancer.

NCI-funded researcher Dennis J. Slamon, M.D., discovered the genetic link between HER2 and breast cancer.

This led researchers to a groundbreaking hypothesis: If HER2 could be blocked, the growth of HER2-positive breast cancer might be slowed.

One way to block the action of a protein is to use laboratory-made monoclonal antibodies that attach to a specific protein and disrupt its function. With NCI support, Dr. Slamon and colleagues from the University of Texas Health Sciences Center had a breakthrough. They showed that an antibody specific to HER2 could slow the growth of metastatic breast cancer cells and other types of cancer in a laboratory dish.

A collaboration between Genentech and UCLA researchers subsequently showed that HER2-specific antibodies could suppress the growth of HER2-positive tumors in mice.

Researchers at Genentech then modified and developed a HER2-specific antibody, called trastuzumab (Herceptin), for use in humans.

Trastuzumab Targets Breast Cancer in Clinical Trials

Researchers launched three clinical trials of trastuzumab in the mid-1990s for patients with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer. By 1998, the results of the phase 3 clinical trials showed that breast cancer in patients treated with trastuzumab and chemotherapy grew at a slower rate than in patients treated with chemotherapy alone. Subsequent clinical trials also showed positive outcomes among women with early-stage HER2-positive breast cancer.

On November 16, 2006, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted approval to trastuzumab used with chemotherapy as an adjuvant treatment for women with HER2-positive breast cancer. The drug has improved survival rates for women with stage 1 to 3 HER2-positive breast cancer by more than 30 percent.

HER2 protein is expressed at high levels in several other cancers besides breast cancer, and in 2010, FDA approved the use of trastuzumab in combination with the chemotherapy drug cisplatin and a type of cancer drug called a fluoropyrimidine to treat some patients with HER2-positive gastric or gastroesophageal junction cancers.

Researchers Develop Additional HER2-Targeted Treatments

Despite these successes, many women with breast cancer don’t benefit from current HER2-targeted treatments, or they become resistant to the effects of these drugs after initial treatment.

Therefore, researchers continue to test new or modified drug combinations. For example, in 2012, FDA approved pertuzumab (Perjeta) as a treatment for women with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer to be used in combination with trastuzumab and docetaxel (Taxotere), a chemotherapy drug. In 2017, pertuzumab received approval for use in combination with the same drugs as an adjuvant treatment for patients with HER2-positive early breast cancer at high risk of recurrence. Pertuzumab works by blocking HER2 from sending signals to other proteins that cause cells to grow and replicate.

Other drugs that have been approved for treatment of HER2-positive breast cancer include ado-trastuzumab emtansine (Kadcyla), lapatinib ditosylate (Tykerb), and neratinib maleate (Nerlynx).

NCI continues to support research on developing HER2-targeted treatments that can treat a wide range of cancers, while also reducing harmful side effects and improving survival and quality of life.

Management of HER2-Positive Breast Cancer: Business as Usual?

By Alice Goodman
December 10, 2018


MANAGEMENT OF HER2-positive breast cancer changed after the introduction of trastuzumab (Herceptin), the first anti-HER2 therapy to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for this type of cancer. Recent studies have more clearly defined the role of pertuzumab (Perjeta) and neratinib (Nerlynx). A question currently on the table is the optimal duration of trastuzumab. A recent study (Persephone) demonstrated that 6 months of trastuzumab is noninferior to 1 year. This is a more attractive option because of reduced potential for side effects, lower cost, and patient convenience, but experts agree that shorter treatment duration has not been definitively established.

Chau T. Dang, MD

Chau T. Dang, MD, Medical Director of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Westchester’s Medical Oncology Service, updated attendees on the optimal adjuvant and neoadjuvant management of HER2-positive breast cancer during the 2018 Annual Chemotherapy Foundation Symposium.1

“For most patients with stage I HER2-positive breast cancer, taxane plus trastuzumab remains the standard of care, with excellent 7-year disease-free survival rates of about 93%. For most stage II to III HER2-positive breast cancers, trastuzumab/pertuzumab-based therapy has become a standard option. Neratinib may be ‘considered’ in high-risk patients, after trastuzumab-based treatment, for patients who did not receive pertuzumab, but there are no data to support its use after trastuzumab/pertuzumab-based treatment,” she told listeners.

“More study is needed to define the optimal duration of trastuzumab. As of now, 1 year remains the standard,” Dr. Dang noted.

Trastuzumab Alone or With Pertuzumab

LONG-TERM follow-up of trastuzumab combined with standard chemotherapy shows excellent disease-free survival rates of about 70% to 75% at 10 years and overall survival rates ranging from 80% to 85%, depending on the study. Although these long-term rates are quite good, there is room for improvement.

“Follow-up of four large adjuvant studies show that our patients are doing very well on trastuzumab,” she said. “Symptomatic congestive heart failure risk is a concern, albeit low, with some of the regimens used with trastuzumab, but this occurs mainly during active therapy,” she added.

For example, she said, with anthracycline/cyclophosphamide followed by paclitaxel/trastuzumab, the rate of symptomatic heart failure was 2% to 4%; for docetaxel, carboplatin, plus trastuzumab, 0.5%. “Late events are rare with either regimen,” Dr. Dang stated.

Dr. Dang discussed neoadjuvant and adjuvant anti-HER2 therapy with trastuzumab/pertuzumab. The combination of docetaxel, trastuzumab, and pertuzumab significantly increased the rate of pathologic complete response compared with docetaxel/trastuzumab alone in the open-label, phase II NEOSPHERE trial: 45.8% with the addition of pertuzumab vs 16.8% for trastuzumab/pertuzumab, 24% for docetaxel/pertuzumab, and 29% for docetaxel/trastuzumab.2

A European regimen of 3 cycles of fluorouracil (5-FU), epirubicin, and cyclophosphamide with trastuzumab/pertuzumab followed by 3 cycles of docetaxel with trastuzumab/pertuzumab was associated with pathologic complete response rates of 61.6% in the TRYPHAENA trial, compared with 57.3% for 3 cycles of 5-FU, epirubicin, and cyclophosphamide followed by 3 cycles of docetaxel plus trastuzumab/pertuzumab vs 66.2% for docetaxel/carboplatin with trastuzumab/pertuzumab.3 In that study, low rates of symptomatic left-ventricular dysfunction were reported with all three regimens.

The phase II BERENICE trial explored the cardiac safety of neoadjuvant and adjuvant trastuzumab/pertuzumab in patients with HER2-positive breast cancer and normal cardiac function at baseline. In that study, the rates of New York Heart Association class 3 or 4 heart failure were 1.5% when dose-dense doxorubicin/ cyclophosphamide was used with combined HER2-blockade and 0.5% when 5-FU, epirubicin, and cyclophosphamide was used with trastuzumab/pertuzumab.4

Neoadjuvant pertuzumab is now recommended as part of the treatment regimen for stage II to III HER2-positive breast tumors greater than 2 cm, or node-positive, locally advanced, and inflammatory cancers. “Adjuvant pertuzumab is recommended for patients at high risk of recurrence,” Dr. Dang added. A preplanned analysis of the APHINITY trial showed a significant improvement in 3-year disease-free survival in node-positive HER2-positive breast cancer. The addition of pertuzumab to trastuzumab plus chemotherapy achieved a 3-year invasive disease–free survival rate of 92% in the pertuzumab group and 90.2% in the placebo group in the node-positive cohort (P = .02).5

“Adjuvant pertuzumab is recommended for patients at high risk of recurrence.” — Chau T. Dang, MD
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Role of Neratinib

THE EXTENET trial found that in high-risk patients, treatment with neratinib reduced the rate of recurrence by an absolute 2.3% compared with placebo in patients with stage I to III HER2-positive breast cancer: 2-year invasive disease–free survival was 93.9% with neratinib vs 91.6% with placebo (P = .074).6

Neratinib is approved by the FDA and endorsed by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines®) as an option for patients with hormone receptor–positive, HER2-positive breast cancer at a “perceived” high risk for recurrence following trastuzumab-based adjuvant therapy, she continued. However, to date, “there are no data on the use of neratinib following trastuzumab/pertuzumab,” she emphasized.

Trastuzumab Duration?

SEVERAL STUDIES have explored shortening the duration of trastuzumab from the standard of care (12 months). The Persephone trial explored whether 6 months of trastuzumab was as effective as 12 months, and results suggest that the shorter trastuzumab regimen is noninferior to the longer one; 4-year disease-free survival was 89.8% for 12 months vs 89.4% for 6 months.7 Similar results were observed for overall survival.

“We have to take these positive results in the context of two other negative trials of shorter duration with 6 months of trastuzumab: PHARE and HORG. Furthermore, with more than 10 years of follow-up, in 4 large randomized controlled trials of more than 14,000 patients, 1 year of trastuzumab conferred sustained disease-free and overall survival benefits. Thus, more work is needed to determine if there is a subgroup of patients who may benefit from shorter-duration trastuzumab therapy. To date, 1 year remains the current standard of care,” Dr. Dang stated. ■

DISCLOSURE: Dr. Dang has received funding from Roche/Genentech and Puma.

1. Dang C: Optimizing neoadjuvant and adjuvant therapy for HER2-positive breast cancer. 2018 Annual Chemotherapy Foundation Symposium. Presented November 8, 2018.

2. Gianni L, Pienkowski T, Im Y-H, et al: 5-Year analysis of neoadjuvant pertuzumab and trastuzumab in patients with locally advanced, inflammatory, or early-stage HER2-positive breast cancer NeoSphere: A multicenter, open-label, phase 2 randomised trial. Lancet Oncol 17:791-800, 2016.

3. Schneeweiss A, Chia S, Hickish T, et al: Pertuzumab plus trastuzumab in combination with standard neoadjuvant anthracycline-containing and anthracycline-free chemotherapy regimens in patients with HER2-positive early breast cancer: A randomized phase II cardiac safety study (TRYPHAENA). Ann Oncol 9:2278-2284, 2013.

4. Swain S, Ewer MS, Viale G, et al: Pertuzumab, trastuzumab, and standard anthracycline- and taxane-based chemotherapy for the neoadjuvant treatment of patients with HER2-positive localized breast cancer (BERENICE): A phase II, open-label, multicenter, multinational cardiac safety study. Ann Oncol 29:646-653, 2018.

5. von Minckwitz G, Procter M, de Azambuja E, et al: Adjuvant pertuzumab and trastuzumab in early HER2-positive breast cancer. N Engl J Med 377:122-131, 2017.

7. Earl HM, Hiller L, Vallier A-L, et al: PERSEPHONE: 6 versus 12 months of adjuvant trastuzumab in patients with HER2-positive early breast cancer: Randomized phase 3 non-inferiority trial with definitive 4-year disease-free survival results. 2018 ASCO Annual Meeting. Abstract 506. Presented June 4, 2018.

Cancer doesn’t care who you are — it can strike anyone, even celebrities. Wonderwall.com is taking a look at some of the stars who’ve been diagnosed with cancer, including this famous rock star… On Oct. 13, 2019, TMZ reported that guitarist Eddie Van Halen — who was treated for tongue cancer nearly two decades earlier — has been suffering from throat cancer for years and has quietly been flying between the United States and Germany for treatment. In 2000, doctors removed about a third of the Van Halen rocker’s tongue following his first diagnosis. According to TMZ, cancer cells later migrated down to his throat. In 2015, Eddie opened up about his health to Billboard, sharing his theory: “I used metal picks — they’re brass and copper — which I always held in my mouth, in the exact place where I got the tongue cancer,” he said. “Plus, I basically live in a recording studio that’s filled with electromagnetic energy. So that’s one theory. I mean, I was smoking and doing a lot of drugs and a lot of everything. But at the same time, my lungs are totally clear. This is just my own theory, but the doctors say it’s possible.” Keep reading for more celebs who’ve battled various forms of cancer…

RELATED: Music stars over 65 who are still rockin’

Q&A with Cynthia Nixon

I was treated in New York at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt. I received tremendous care. 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. The wonderful Dr. Brown, who found the small cancer on my mammogram said, “You know I wouldn’t have thought anything of this. It is so small, except it wasn’t there on any of your previous mammograms.” 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.

I had it biopsied, and it proved to be cancerous. I had a lumpectomy immediately. I was in a play at the time, and my doctor, anesthesiologist and all the people involved in the procedures and operation did an amazing job and went far and beyond for me. I didn’t want people to know I had the operation because I was in the play, and I thought it would be very distracting for audience members. The doctors did my procedure on a Sunday so I wouldn’t have to miss any performances. I healed from that. I didn’t have to have chemo but I had six and a half weeks of radiation. After that was completed, I went on tamoxifen, which I have been on for about four years. I had hot flashes in the beginning, which weren’t so fun, but they went away.

I feel like I received tremendous care from my various doctors, from the radiation oncologist who read my mammogram to the surgeon who performed the operation to my regular oncologist. I also had radiation technicians who were fantastic. They were so good in their job. They were so precise, but they were also great at hitting the right tone—just the right amount of focus at the task at hand with a little chit-chat but with enough seriousness. They never gave the sense that they were doing something scary or dire. They had a real lightness to their approach. Some people get very dire when you tell them you have cancer, and I would have to talk them out of the pit of despair. When you have cancer, you don’t want to spend time trying to convince other people that you will be OK—you want them to convince you or join you in the belief that you will be OK.

It’s so hard to know. I got cancer the year I turned 40. Turning 40 was a big deal for me, not necessarily in a bad way. It just felt like I had arrived at a real peak in my life—that I could look forward and I could look back. I had a big party and invited people from my past, my present, and people I didn’t know well but always wanted to be friends with. And I feel like the cancer only added to that feeling—that we are not going to be here forever. Are you living your life the way you want it to be? What are the things you’ve always wanted to do or meant to do? You’re still here, and you’re 40. Why aren’t you doing them? It sounds small but I started taking singing lessons, things like that, that really made me put my money where my mouth was. You can’t constantly defer—at some point, you have to step up.

She was diagnosed around 1979, and she discovered the cancer herself. She felt it and they biopsied it, and sure enough, it was cancerous. The doctor she went to wanted to take off the entire breast. My grandmother wanted to be a doctor but became a scientist who worked in a lab. My mom was raised to know doctors were good, smart people but were not gods and were fallible. You didn’t have to do something just because a doctor was telling you to. She did a fair amount of research and didn’t understand why doctors were taking off the entire breast if the cancer isn’t in the entire breast. She wondered why they didn’t save the nipple. She went around until she found a doctor who agreed with her. Lumpectomies at the time were cutting edge and new, but what was interesting is she found a surgeon she loved who was an older guy, but he saw things the way she did and was very forward thinking even though he was from an earlier generation.

No, Samantha got cancer in 2003, and I didn’t get diagnosed until 2006. We had a preponderance of female writers on Sex and the City—all but one of the writers was a woman. Many of them, in a short number of years, came down with different types of cancer but mostly breast cancer. One of them died of breast cancer. Another writer who got serious cancer was Jenny Bicks, who is a writer on the Big C. While she was going through it, our head writer Michael Patrick King said we’ve got to write about this. He always wanted to write about what was affecting the women in the writer’s room. He always wanted to be real and to deal with things real women were dealing with. He said, “All of you, by virtue of being yourself or through friends or family are dealing with cancer right now. How could we not include this?”

While Jenny was undergoing chemo, she had a difficult time. Her cancer was more serious than mine. Mine was a walk in the park compared to hers. So she was writing it, and we were filming it. A lot of things in the episodes were based on things that happened to her. She was very excited when I told her I was going to speak to oncology nurses tonight, in particular because she said they are absolutely her heroes. She said she cannot understand how to be that strong—to constantly, day in and day out, put yourself in situations that are so emotional, so difficult, for people who want to be anywhere else in the world. And you are there for them. You are their shepherd, their solace. She said some of the most important things told to her were from oncology nurses. For example, it was the oncology nurses who talked to her about how difficult it is on the partner of the person with cancer. She said she didn’t think she would have understood what her boyfriend was going through unless an oncology nurse said, “You don’t know how many guys can’t take this and leave, and your guy is standing there and standing firm. You’ve got to notice that and value that.”

So when Samantha on the show had cancer, they wanted to make sure that Smith’s story was told also. The actor really shaved his head, like the character, in solidarity with Samantha when she was losing her hair. They had to do it in one take because that’s it—you only got one head of hair! And when they filmed the scene where Samantha was having hot flashes from her medication and finally takes her wig off then all the women take their wigs off, we got as many cancer survivors as we could in the audience. I feel that when you have cancer the more you can gather people who’ve had it, particularly who have lived through it, it is very empowering.

I’m doing the Big C now on Showtime, and we are filming it right now. I’m about to do a Law and Order where I play a Julie Taymor-type character in a Spiderman-type show, and someone falls to their death flying and they are trying to figure out who did it. I’m doing a miniseries this summer in Budapest called World Without End. Next year, I’m doing a play on Broadway called Wit, which is about a woman who has stage 4 ovarian cancer.

There are currently more than 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society, which also estimates that 1 in 8 women in this country will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime and about 40,000 will die this year from the disease.

Here’s a closer look at seven women — and one man — who bravely battled breast cancer while being in the public eye. Read on for details on how they were diagnosed, which treatment they chose and how they’re doing now.

Cynthia Nixon

TORONTO, ON – SEPTEMBER 17: Actress Cynthia Nixon attends the “James White” photo call during the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival at Ryerson Theatre on September 17, 2015 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by George Pimentel/Getty Images)Getty Images

“Sex And The City” star Cynthia Nixon kept her condition under wraps after being diagnosed in 2002 and treating her cancer with a lumpectomy and radiation. Nixon, whose mother also survived breast cancer, went public with her story when she realized she might inspire other women at risk. She became an ambassador for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation in 2008. “The main thing I have to tell women is to get your mammograms and don’t delay,” Nixon told WebMD.

Edie Falco

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA – SEPTEMBER 19: Actress Edie Falco attends the Showtime 2015 Emmy Eve party at Sunset Tower Hotel on September 19, 2015 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Matthew Simmons/Getty Images)Getty Images

After a 2003 diagnosis, actress Edie Falco was hesitant to share her condition with her “Sopranos” castmates because she didn’t want any fuss or pity from well-meaning family and friends. Falco quietly went into treatment and emerged cancer-free with a short, sassy haircut in 2004. “I had really been taking care of myself for 15 years before I got sick, not smoking, not drinking and eating well,” Falco told Parade magazine in 2009. “So I fared very well.”

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Sheryl Crow

LOS ANGELES, CA – FEBRUARY 08: Recording artist Sheryl Crow attends the Warner Music Group annual Grammy celebration at Chateau Marmont on February 8, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for Warner Music Group)Getty Images

When a routine 2006 mammogram revealed suspicious calcifications on both of her breasts, Sheryl Crow postponed a world tour and opted for seven weeks of radiation, combined with acupuncture and herbal teas. The rocker was able to bypass chemotherapy because the cancer was caught early. Crow, whose engagement to cyclist Lance Armstong ended during this time, surrounded herself with positive influences. “I am inspired by the brave women who have faced this battle before me and grateful for the support of family and friends,” Crow wrote on her website after undergoing surgery in 2006.

Jaclyn Smith

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – JUNE 25: Actress Jaclyn Smith attends the Farrah Fawcett 5th Anniversary Reception at the Farrah Fawcett Foundation on June 25, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images) / Getty Images

When a lump was detected in one of her breasts during a routine checkup in 2002, the “Charlie’s Angels” icon didn’t fight the battle alone. Smith turned to girlfriends who had battled breast cancer, and a supportive family, before undergoing a lumpectomy and radiation. “Attitude is important,” Smith told Women’s Day in 2008. “You need to say life is to be enjoyed. It’s to be embraced. It’s a gift.”

Christina Applegate

LOS ANGELES, CA – AUGUST 01: Actress Christina Applegate attends the 5th Annual Celebration of Dance Gala presented By The Dizzy Feet Foundation at Club Nokia on August 1, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images for Dizzy Feet Foundation)Getty Images

When a lump was discovered in Christina Applegate’s breast in the summer of 2008, the actress decided to take a proactive approach. Applegate opted to undergo a double mastectomy to reduce the chance that the cancer could spread or come back. “I have taken a very progressive stance,” Applegate told Oprah Winfrey in 2008. “For that I am really grateful.” After the life-changing experience, Applegate founded Right Action For Women, a nonprofit that provides financial support for women at high risk for breast cancer.

Melissa Etheridge

NAPA, CA – MARCH 27: Singer Melissa Etheridge poses at Sutter Home Winery during Day 2 of the 2015 Live in the Vineyard Music, Food and Wine Festival on March 27, 2015 in St. Helena, California. (Photo by C Flanigan/Getty Images)Getty Images

After a 2004 diagnosis, rocker Melissa Etheridge showed the world what she was made of. Not long after completing a rigorous regimen of chemotherapy and radiation, the singer, proudly sporting a bald head, performed a Janis Joplin tribute at the 2005 Grammy Awards. She deservedly received a standing ovation. “The diagnosis really helped put me on a path of understanding life and happiness and what my purpose is,” she told More magazine.

Giuliana Rancic

LOS ANGELES, CA – SEPTEMBER 20: Giuliana Rancic arrives at the 67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)FilmMagic

In 2011, TV personality Giuliana Rancic was shocked to discover she was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 36 while undergoing in-vitro fertilization, but thankful that it was detected early. “A lot of us think we’re invincible, but we have to start putting ourselves on the to-do list,” she told TODAY in 2011. “I had a friend call me yesterday, and she said, ‘I’m so sorry, can I do anything for you?’ And I said, ‘Just call your doctor tomorrow and make an appointment. That’s what you could do for me.’ … I will be okay because I found it early.”

Peter Criss

NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 30: Musician Peter Criss of the band KISS attends the 2014 Pinktober Concert at Hard Rock Cafe – Times Square on September 30, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)Getty Images

After decades of rock ‘n’ roll debauchery, drummer Peter Criss of the legendary band Kiss thought he had seen it all. Then he was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. The Hall of Fame rocker was shocked. He was unaware that men are at risk. “I’m a spokesperson in raising awareness of male breast cancer,” Criss revealed in his 2012 memoir, “Makeup to Breakup: My Life in and out of Kiss.” “Every October I hit the streets with thousands of people and march to raise money for breast cancer research,” he added.

RELATED: Hoda Kotb, Joan Lunden share breast cancer journeys for #PinkPowerTODAY

Hoda Kotb shares her breast cancer journey for #PinkPowerTODAY

Oct. 1, 201507:12

Two years after the fact, actress Cynthia Nixon said she successfully battled breast cancer.

Nixon, who reprises her role as attorney Miranda Hobbes in the “Sex and the City” movie (which hits theaters on May 30), said she was diagnosed when she was in the off-Broadway show “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.”

“I didn’t want to make it public while I was going through it,” Nixon said, according to the New York Daily News. “I didn’t want the paparazzi at the hospital, that kind of thing.”

Nixon, who lives in New York City, had a lumpectomy two years ago and then underwent six and a half weeks of radiation.

Her mother Ann also battled the disease twice, said Nixon, who has two children.

“As the daughter of a breast cancer survivor, knowing my personal risk made me more aware and more empowered when I faced my own diagnosis,” the 42-year-old actress said in a statement.

The diagnosis of cancer in Nixon’s right breast mirrored the plot of the “Sex and the City” television show, in which Kim Cattrall’s character Samantha Jones successfully battled the disease.

Nixon said she will be a spokeswoman for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation next year.

“I want to help Susan G. Komen for the Cure educate the 1.1 million women around the globe who face a diagnosis each year,” she said.

Nixon will serve as an ambassador for the organization and will share her cancer experiences in a series of Web videos.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

15 Celebrities with Breast Cancer

Breast cancer

Despite race or ethnicity, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer found in women in the United States. Tumors can often go unnoticed, and because of the hereditary nature of this cancer, lifestyle can often have little effect over the development of the disease. Because of this, no amount of fame or money can guard against the development of breast cancer. Though, getting a regular mammogram can significantly increase your chance of finding early signs of breast cancer in time for successful treatment.

Read about 15 prominent women who have experienced and overcome the disease, and are active in promoting cancer research and education.

1. Christina Applegate

Diagnosed in 2008 at age 36, this acclaimed American comedy actress underwent a bilateral mastectomy after finding out that she carried the BRCA gene, aka the “breast cancer gene.”

Luckily for Applegate, her malignant tumor was found via an MRI after her doctor determined that the mammogram wasn’t sufficient due to the denseness of her breasts. The cancer was caught early enough so it did not spread to other parts of her body. Since her surgery, Applegate has voiced her dedication to fight for all women’s access to MRIs and genetic testing as guaranteed preventative measures. In an interview on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” she stated:

“I am a 36-year-old person with breast cancer, and not many people know that that happens to women my age or women in their 20s,” she said. “This is my opportunity now to go out and fight as hard as I can for early detection.”

2. Sheryl Crow

This Grammy Award-winning American musician was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006, and is now cancer free. Since her recovery, she’s embraced alternative methods of promoting health in her body and mind.

“This great friend told me one of the gateways to awakening is to allow yourself to experience your emotions,” Crow told Health Magazine in 2012. “As Westerners, we’ve gotten adept at suppressing them. It’s always ‘Try not to think about it’ or ‘Keep yourself busy.’ You push all that stuff down, and it manifests itself in other ways, whether it’s stress or disease. So my attitude was to grieve when I felt like grieving, be afraid when I felt like being afraid, and be angry when I felt like being angry. It also helped me to learn to say no to people. That’s been really liberating.”

Crow now practices eating a healthy diet that’s high in omega-3s and fiber, and lives a less stressful life on a farm outside of Nashville with her son Wyatt.

3. Cynthia Nixon

“Get your mammograms and don’t delay,” says “Sex and the City” star Cynthia Nixon.

Diagnosed in 2002, she privately treated her cancer with a lumpectomy and radiation before publicly announcing her diagnosis and becoming an ambassador for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation in 2008. Her mother is also a breast cancer survivor.

4. Kylie Minogue

Australian pop star Kylie Minogue was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer in 2005 at age 39, just months after being initially cleared — or misdiagnosed, she claims — by her doctor.

“So my message to all of you and everyone at home is, because someone is in a white coat and using big medical instruments doesn’t necessarily mean they are right,” she told Ellen DeGeneres in 2008, advising women to trust their intuition.

Four days after her diagnosis, Minogue had surgery and then began chemotherapy. She has been cancer free ever since.

5. Olivia Newton-John

First diagnosed in 1992, this Grammy Award-winning singer, actress, and activist underwent a partial mastectomy and chemotherapy before becoming cancer free for 25 years. During that time, she became an advocate of breast cancer awareness, culminating in the building of the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre in Melbourne, Australia in 2008.

Unfortunately, in May 2017, Newton-John’s cancer returned, metastasizing in her sacrum, with symptoms of back pain. Her next step was to begin receiving photo radiation therapy shortly after.

“I decided on my direction of therapies after consultation with my doctors and natural therapists and the medical team at my Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre in Melbourne, Australia,” she stated in a press release published on her Facebook page.

6. Julia Louis-Dreyfus

In September 2017, American actress and multiple Emmy Awards winner, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, age 56, announced her diagnosis on Twitter:

“1 in 8 women get breast cancer. Today, I’m the one,” she wrote.

Though this is her first diagnosis, she has in the past advocated for cancer research with the Livestrong Foundation, as well as supported environmental causes and green living.

Though Louis-Dreyfus has an exceptional healthcare plan through her union, she realizes that not all women have access to healthcare. She acknowledges her desire for the United States to make universal healthcare available to all.

7. Carly Simon

After being told for years that the lumps in her breasts were nothing to worry about, this American musician finally had the lumps removed, and they turned out to be cancerous. Lucky for her, the cancer hadn’t yet spread to her lymph nodes. She then received chemotherapy, and later had reconstructive surgery.

“It really changes an awful lot of things,” she told an interviewer at 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.”

Simon said she takes a pill to keep estrogen from joining any of her cells that would be dangerous, but that that deprives her of testosterone, which is what makes one feel sexy. But she doesn’t let that stop her.

8. Dame Maggie Smith

Diagnosed with breast cancer at age 74 during the filming of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” this knighted English actress insisted on persisting through the filming, even during chemotherapy.

“I was hairless,” Smith told an interviewer at The Telegraph. “I had no problem getting the wig on. I was like a boiled egg.”

Still, Smith continued on to act in the final film of the series, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”

Although admitting that getting breast cancer at her age changed her outlook on her future, she noted at the end of the interview:

“The last couple of years have been a write-off, though I’m beginning to feel like a person now,” she said. “My energy is coming back. S*** happens. I ought to pull myself together a bit.”

9. Suzanne Somers

American actress Suzanne Somers took a holistic approach to her stage 2 breast cancer diagnosis in 2001, prompting her career switch from the entertainment world to motivational speaking and healthy living advocacy.

Getting cancer was the “beginning of a new life for me,” she told an interviewer at Dailymail.com.

Instead of following her surgery with chemotherapy, she famously declined treatment and instead used Iscador, a medicine made from mistletoe, which she injected daily for 10 years, and which she now attributes to her unwavering health.

Additionally, Somers adapted a healthy eating practice — she grows her own organic vegetables — and regular fitness routine composed of yoga, walking, and thigh and leg exercises. She has hopes of having her own talk show.

“My success was and is self-evident. I’m alive. I’ve lived. I’ve thrived and have grown as a person. I’m now healthier than ever. Who can argue with that?”

10. Gloria Steinem

This famous women’s rights activist was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1986, after which she had a lumpectomy.

Discussing the cancer’s affects with interviewer Dave Davies on NPR’s “Fresh Air” in 2016, Steinem noted:

“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.”

After a successful lumpectomy, Steinem continues to write, lecture, and speak out against women’s injustices all over the world. Her memoir, “My Life on the Road,” was published by Random House in 2016.

11. Robin Roberts

After successfully recovering from breast cancer with a partial mastectomy and chemotherapy in 2007, this news anchor developed myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a rare blood disease brought on by the cancer treatment. Treatment for MDS requires, ironically, more chemotherapy, and a bone marrow transplant.

Still, Roberts has worked through her fears and has come out on the other side a changed, stronger person. She is now fully dedicated to her health, faith, and her loved ones.

“I’m not one of those people who say, ‘Cancer is one of the best doggone things that ever happened to me,’” Robin told an interviewer at Good Housekeeping in 2012. “I was appreciating life. But has made me far more patient than I’ve ever been in my life. And I’m more in the moment with people.”

12. Judy Blume

Revealing her diagnosis in a blog post, renowned children’s author Judy Blume wrote of the received news of her biopsy from her routine ultrasound:

“Wait – me?” she wrote. “There’s no breast cancer in my family (recent extensive genetic testing shows no genetic connection). I haven’t eaten red meat in more than 30 years. I’ve never smoked, I exercise every day, forget alcohol — It’s bad for my reflux — I’ve been the same weight my whole adult life. How is this possible? Well, guess what — it’s possible.”

At age 74, 6 weeks after her diagnosis, she received a mastectomy, and noted that it was quick and caused very little pain.

“My friends who’ve had breast cancer have been so helpful and supportive I can never thank them enough,” she also wrote. “They got me through this. They were my inspiration. If we can do it, you can do it! They were right. And I got off easy. I don’t need chemo which is a whole other ballgame.”

13. Kathy Bates

Already an ovarian cancer survivor from 2003, award-winning actress Kathy Bates was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in 2012. She underwent a double mastectomy, from which she also developed lymphedema, a swelling in the body’s extremities. Although there’s no cure for lymphedema, physical therapy and weight loss have helped her drastically with the side effects.

“I’ve joined the ranks of women who are going flat, as they say. I don’t have breasts — so why do I have to pretend like I do? That stuff isn’t important. I’m just grateful to have been born at a time when the research made it possible for me to survive. I feel so incredibly lucky to be alive.”

Bates is now the national spokeswoman for the Lymphatic Education and Research Network (LE&RN), and even meets with members of congress about publicizing the condition.

14. Wanda Sykes

Diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer in her left breast in 2011, actress and comedian Wanda Sykes opted for a double mastectomy in order to ensure a healthy life in the future.

“I had both breasts removed, because now I have zero chance of having breast cancer,” she told Ellen DeGeneres in 2011.

Although a double mastectomy isn’t a 100 percent safeguard against a recurrence of breast cancer, it does significantly reduce the odds by about 90 percent.

15. Tig Notaro

Comedian Tig Notaro became famous for performing a transgressive comedy set in 2012 in which she revealed her breast cancer to the audience right after she found out earlier that day.

“Is everybody having a good time?” she said right after she got up on stage. “I have cancer.”

Free from cancer after a double mastectomy and her career now exploding from the success of her comedy, Notaro is now working on a book, writing, directing, and starring in a TV show about her life, and of course, still taking the stage.

What 9 Celebrities Are Breast Cancer Survivors?

When thinking about celebrities, many of us picture people with fame, fortune, good looks and bodies to match. We admire them and at times probably wished we could lead their charmed lives. But leading the lifestyle of the rich and famous does not protect someone from a breast cancer diagnosis. The following are some celebrities you might recognize, but might not have known about their individual battles to become breast cancer survivors.

Celebrity Breast Cancer Survivors

Christina Applegate is an actress who got her start as a teenager playing Kelly Bundy on Married with Children. She was diagnosed at young age with breast cancer, 36, opting for a lumpectomy at the time. Later on, after learning she possessed the genetic mutation for breast cancer (BRCA positive), she made the decision to proceed with a double mastectomy. Flash forward a decade later, and Applegate is still dedicated to raising breast cancer awareness, specifically for early detection with her foundation, Right Action for Women.

Sheryl Crow is a Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter with hits like “All I Wanna Do” and “If It Makes You Happy.” She is another 10+ year breast cancer survivor because her cancer was found early, and she understands the importance of educating women to get their annual mammograms. In fact, last year, she became the national spokesperson for Hologic’s Genius™ 3D Mammography exam.

Peter Criss plays drums behind the legendary front man, Gene Simmons, for the rock band KISS. Although he first noticed a lump in 2007, he did not learn that he had cancer in his left breast for another two years. As a breast cancer survivor, he is determined to raise awareness about the fact that men can develop breast cancer, too.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a comedic actress formerly on Seinfeld and currently appearing in her Emmy Award-winning show Veep on HBO. She announced her diagnosis in a very public fashion on Twitter on Thursday, September 28. “One in 8 women gets breast cancer,” she stated in her tweet. “Today, I’m the one.”

Olivia Newton John is the British-born but Australian-raised singer/songwriter who first hit American radio airwaves with her lesser known song “All Things Must Pass” until she hit it big with “I Honestly Love You.” And of course, she rose to stardom when appearing opposite John Travolta in the movie adaptation of the musical “Grease.” In 1992, Newton John received her breast cancer diagnosis and decided to have mastectomy. She was cancer-free for 25 years, but learned earlier this year breast cancer had returned and localized in another area of her body, the pelvis. The recurrence was discovered due to the fact that she experienced pain upon walking. This time around, Newton John opted for radiation therapy along with a strong focus on yoga and other natural therapies, such as herbal supplements, meditation and even medicinal cannabis. She is currently raising money for her cancer wellness center in Melbourne, as well as fund clinical research trails for potential breakthrough cancer treatments.

Giuliana Rancic is the former host of E! News and appeared opposite her husband in the reality TV show Giuliana & Bill. In October 2011, prior to undergoing another round of infertility treatment, Rancic’s mammogram uncovered early-stage breast cancer. Two months later she had a double mastectomy along with reconstructive surgery. A couple of years ago, Rancic created Fab-U-Wish, a non-profit organization that now runs in conjunction with The Pink Agenda. The mission of Fab-U-Wish is to grant celebrity-themed wishes to women who are undergoing breast cancer treatment.

Robin Roberts started her broadcast career as one of the first female reporters in sports on ESPN, which then led to her position as a featured reporter for Good Morning America and eventually becoming the show’s co-anchor. After performing her self-breast exam in 2007, she found the lump, which a biopsy confirmed as early stage breast cancer. Roberts’ treatment plan included a lumpectomy, partial mastectomy, six and a half weeks of radiation therapy and eight rounds of chemotherapy. She survived breast cancer only to learn five years later that she developed a rare blood disease known as myelodysplastic syndrome (MSD), which was attributed to her cancer treatment. Roberts has used her position on the national morning show to help raise breast cancer awareness along with importance of donating to Be the Match, a national bone marrow registry.

Jaclyn Smith is famous for her role as Kelly Garrett in the original Charlie’s Angels TV series. Her annual mammogram in 2002 uncovered her breast cancer, which was treated with a lumpectomy and radiation. Concerning a woman’s battle against breast cancer, her words of wisdom are to find a support group: Don’t go it alone.

Suzanne Somers first came into our homes as Chrissy on Three’s Company back in the 1970s. After hearing the words, “You have breast cancer,” the marketer behind the Thighmaster proceeded with a lumpectomy and radiation treatment plan, steering clear of chemotherapy. She opted instead to follow alternative therapeutic methods in her breast cancer recovery. Shortly thereafter, she also adopted an organic diet and strict exercise regimen. Somers’ lesson learned after breast cancer is to empower women to become the healthiest versions of themselves, a strong breast cancer survivor.

At Chapters Health System and its affiliates—Good Shepherd Hospice, HPH Hospice and LifePath Hospice, every day is devoted to educating our patients and keeping them in the place they call home. We are dedicated to ensuring that patients, young and old alike, and their families are able to make educated decisions about important healthcare matters. For more information, please call our helpful Chapters Health team at 1.866.204.8611 or send an email to [email protected]

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