What celebrities have or have had breast cancer?
One in eight women will develop breast cancer at some point in her life. This statistic affects all women equally. You may have a one in eight chance of developing breast cancer, but so does your doctor…and your hairdresser…and the big-name actress in your favorite movie. Rich or poor, famous or unknown, the disease treats everyone the same.
Just Like Us: Celebrities Speak Up About Breast Cancer
Of course, when celebrities are diagnosed with breast cancer, their cases receive more attention than most. However, even that publicity helps remind us that we’re really not all that different. Famous or not, upon receiving a breast cancer diagnosis, we all face the same struggles, the same emotions, and the same need for support.
Fame does give celebrities with breast cancer a bigger platform to speak up about the disease. Here are a few examples of famous people who have joined the effort and are helping spread awareness about breast cancer risks and the importance of early detection.
“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.” – Angelina Jolie
Like Christina Applegate, Angelina Jolie knew she had a significant family history of breast cancer, and chose to undergo genetic testing. Like Christina, she tested positive for a BRCA1 mutation, and had a double mastectomy while in her thirties.
However, unlike Christina, Angelina chose the double mastectomy even though she didn’t have breast cancer in either breast.
The actress, producer, and director of films such as Unbroken decided to have the surgery in 2013 as a preventative measure. It reduced her risk of developing breast cancer from an estimated 87% down to approximately 5%.
Though some may consider preventative surgery extreme, it is an option for women who test positive for BRCA gene mutations and therefore have a much higher risk of developing breast cancer.
“It is not easy to make these decisions. But it is possible to take control and tackle head-on any health issue. You can seek advice, learn about the options and make choices that are right for you. Knowledge is power.” – Angelina Jolie
“Early detection is so crucial, I consider myself fortunate that I found this in the early stages and the prognosis is so promising.” – Joan Lunden
Joan Lunden is an accomplished author, journalist, television host, and a mother of seven.
Since 2014, she is also a breast cancer survivor.
Joan announced her diagnosis on ABC’s Good Morning America, a show she co-hosted for almost two decades. She’s spoken at length about her diagnosis and treatment in the media, on her blog, and through a book titled Had I Known. She’s also started ALIVE, a streaming video channel all about surviving breast cancer.
“I found this breast cancer community to be such an amazing, powerful, compassionate alliance.” – Joan Lunden
“Someone like me shouldn’t be diagnosed with breast cancer, that’s what was going through my mind. I wasn’t thinking about a diagnosis. I was just doing what I was supposed to do, which was staying on top of my mammograms. It was a shock.” – Sheryl Crow
Rock star and nine-time Grammy Award-winner Sheryl Crow was diagnosed at age 44 with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), a non-invasive form of breast cancer. It was discovered at an early stage through an annual mammogram, and after a lumpectomy and seven weeks of radiation therapy, she was declared cancer-free.
Sheryl did not have a family history of the disease or any significant risk factors, which is not unusual. 60-70% of people with breast cancer have no known pre-existing risk factors. This is why it is important it is for everyone to have an early detection plan, regardless of family history.
“I am a walking advertisement for early detection.” – Sheryl Crow
“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. This is my opportunity now to go out and fight as hard as I can for early detection.” – Christina Applegate
Christina Applegate found fame at an early age, starring as a teenager on the sitcom Married… with Children, and going on to act in everything from Broadway musicals to Anchorman movies.
She also became a breast cancer survivor in 2008 at the young age of 36.
Christina always knew she was at risk for developing breast cancer. Her mother, Nancy Priddy, was also diagnosed with breast cancer while in her thirties, and then again in her fifties. Because of that family history, Christina made the wise choice to follow an early detection plan that included more frequent screenings starting at age 30. The cancer was therefore detected in an early stage, when it is easier to treat.
However, her mother’s history and her own early-onset breast cancer led her to also undergo genetic testing for BRCA mutations. She tested positive for a BRCA1 gene mutation, meaning that, like her mother, she had a high probability of developing breast cancer again.
So, despite the cancer only being in one breast, Christina opted for a double mastectomy. Her knowledge of the BRCA gene mutation and the risks involved allowed her to make an educated decision, choosing a proactive treatment that significantly reduces the possibility of the breast cancer spreading or coming back.
According to Christina, an important part of her treatment and recovery was being able to receive support and advice from other breast cancer survivors—people she didn’t even know before her diagnosis.
“When you get diagnosed with cancer, there’s such a sense of loneliness, but we need to know as people going through this is that you’re not alone”. – Christina Applegate
“I can’t stress enough how important it is to get screened and checked for all cancers — and to do self breast-exams.” – Robin Roberts
Robin Roberts, another co-anchor of Good Morning America, discovered a lump during a breast self-exam in 2007. An ultrasound and biopsy confirmed that it was breast cancer—the more aggressive triple-negative kind. Treatment included a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
Her mother encouraged her to “Make your mess your message.” Robin has been public about her cancer struggles, even winning awards for her courage in raising awareness. She’s a vocal proponent for regular breast self-exams, which is how 40% of all breast cancer cases are detected.
“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.” – Robin Roberts
“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.” – Hoda Kotb
Dateline NBC correspondent and Today show co-host Hoda Kotb was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, at age 43.
For women like Hoda, who have no family history of cancer, doctors recommend getting annual or biennial mammograms starting at age 40. However, at 43, Hoda admitted that she’d still never had a mammogram. The only reason her cancer was discovered is because her gynecologist noticed lumps in her breast during a routine checkup. Annual clinical exams are an important part of an early detection plan.
After a mastectomy and five years of hormone therapy, Hoda is cancer-free. She has said the experience made her stronger and more courageous. In fact, she attributes her job as a Today anchor to her cancer experience; surviving cancer gave her the confidence to fight for her dream job.
“I think after overcoming breast cancer, you sort of become fearless and somehow going up to your boss to talk about a possible promotion doesn’t seem like such a daunting task anymore.” – Hoda Kotb
When it comes to breast cancer, these celebrities are just like us. We can learn from their stories and take action in our own lives. Here are things you can do:
- Learn more about breast cancer, including its causes and treatments.
- Find out whether you have any risk factors such as inherited gene mutations. Women at higher risk should generally start breast cancer screenings at a younger age, and be checked more often.
- Start young. Monthly breast self-exams are encouraged for women of all ages. Even if you think you’re too young to develop breast cancer, learning what is normal for your body will help you quickly detect any future changes or lumps.
- Volunteer to help spread the message of early detection.
- If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, you can ask questions and connect with other survivors at Beyond the Shock.
Wherever you are in the journey, know that you’re not alone. We’re here to help you now.
Staring at my ever-growing to-do list, I contemplated canceling—or at least postponing—the appointment for my annual mammogram. Next month, I reasoned, things would be a little less hectic. Why not save myself some stress?
Like most, I have a fear of cancer. In 1999 I lost my 37-year-old husband in a fast battle with Hodgkin’s disease, leaving me to raise our three young children—six, four, and two years old at the time—alone. A year later I was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer after my doctor found a small nodule in my neck during a routine visit for a sore throat. I endured several years of tests and treatments before the doctor declared me cancer-free.
I’d tried not to think about cancer in the 16 years after that, always trying to push it from the corners of my brain. But when my annual mammogram rolled around, cancer seemed to be all around me: Several close friends were being treated for breast cancer, and a close neighbor was battling leukemia. Cancer seemed to be closing in—again.
A year earlier I had started having what felt like small electrical charges in my left breast. Zippy little jolts that felt like a nerve misfiring all day long, setting me on edge with each zap. Test results showed that there was nothing to worry about, and within a few weeks the “charges” had subsided. I figured things were fine and went back to trying not to think about cancer. But a few months before my scheduled mammogram, they came back.
As I sat in front of my calendar, debating whether or not to put off my mammogram, I couldn’t get the thought of cancer out of my mind. I thought about my kids, now adults, and everything they’d already been through. They’d watched both of their parents battle cancer, and mourned the loss of their dad. I was eager to tell them I had a clean bill of health again, so I kept my appointment on the books.
“This is your mass,” the radiologist said, drawing an imaginary circle around a black spot on my X-ray as I sat in his office after my appointment. “My mass?” I kept asking over and over again, as if repeating the question would make the answer change. It didn’t. There was a mass in my left breast.
My mass was tiny—it was possible it was only Stage 0, if it was cancerous at all. I needed to have a biopsy to confirm, but somehow I already knew what was coming. A biopsy, a partial lumpectomy, a CAT scan, and several blood tests later, I learned that I had triple-negative breast cancer. It had already spread to some lymph nodes in my armpit, kicking my cancer diagnosis up to Stage 2.
As far as cancer diagnoses go, triple-negative breast cancer is a particularly bad one to get: It’s aggressive, more likely to spread and more likely to recur. TNBC is less common—about 10% to 20% of breast cancers are triple-negative, according to breastcancer.org—and gets its name from the fact that it tests negative for estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors, and excess HER2 protein. Translation: Triple-negative breast cancer doesn’t respond to hormonal therapy medicines or medicines that target HER2 protein receptors.
It does respond well to four rounds of what’s known as Red Devil chemotherapy, followed by 16 weekly treatments of Taxol chemotherapy and then 33 rounds of radiation.
While it might sound silly, my first question to the breast surgeon was “Is this lose-your-hair chemo?” I had read about some chemotherapy treatments that didn’t cause hair loss, but this unfortunately wasn’t one of them. After finally growing my hair to the longest it had ever been—a feat I’ve been trying to accomplish for years—I was going to lose it all. I started bawling in the doctor’s office, bitter over the symbolic loss and the thought of battling cancer yet again.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and we’re highlighting a few celebrities who have bravely battled breast cancer — and won.
1. Sheryl Crow. The 52-year-old was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2006 and has become a huge activist for activist for early detection. ET spoke with her doctor, Dr. Kristi Funk, who explained just what could have happened to the singer if she didn’t get diagnosed when she did. “The truth is, a mammogram saved her life,” Funk revealed. “She’s very vocal about that. She is the poster child for early detection.”
NEWS: Angelina Jolie’s Surgeon: I’m Honored She Chose Me
2. Christina Applegate. The actress was just 36 years old when she had the double mastectomy that saved her life. Six years after her surgery, she says having a daily reminder of what she’s gone through isn’t easy. “I still sometimes lose my mind six years later,” she told ET’s Brooke Anderson. “You have a daily reminder of everything that you’ve gone through.”
3. Joan Lunden. The former Good Morning America anchor was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer this past June and recently shed her wig for the cover of People magazine. “I could decide to do nothing, but that’s certainly not my personality,” the 64-year-old told the magazine. “I was handed an opportunity to learn everything that I can about this and try to help others.”
NEWS: Joan Lunden Removes Wig, Shares Battle with Breast Cancer
4. Jane Fonda. The beautiful actress was diagnosed with a noninvasive cancer after having a lump removed in 2010. “I’ve just joined a family of millions of women who have gone through this,” the 76-year-old told Oprah in 2013. “I thought what a journey this is going to be. You know, maybe I’ll make it and maybe I won’t. I didn’t get scared. I hope I don’t die. But I’m not scared of dying.”
NEWS: 5 Things We Love About Jane Fonda
5. Cynthia Nixon. The Sex and the City star was diagnosed in 2000 at just 40 years old. While she didn’t go public with her diagnosis at the time, she has since joined Susan G. Komen for the Cure in hopes of helping to educate women around the world about breast cancer.
6. Suzanne Somers. The 68-year-old could not believe her diagnosis because she didn’t consider herself at risk. “When I was diagnosed with cancer, I was shocked,” she told Everyday Health in 2011. “I never smoked. I never drank to excess. I ate right. And I didn’t abuse pharmaceuticals. I had done the work!”
7. Guiliana Rancic. The host revealed that she had been diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer in 2011. She found out she had disease after a routine mammogram before receiving another round of IVF treatment for fertility.
Check out the video above to see more celebrity breast cancer survivor stories.
Jennifer Griffin, a national security correspondent for Fox News Channel, was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer on September 28, 2009, when she was 40 years old. Her superwoman approach to fighting the disease: “I put on my flack jacket and went to war,” she says. Here, we ask about her personal battle, how she remained positive, and how diet and exercise played a role in her fight.
How did you discover you had breast cancer?
I have a family history of breast cancer—my mom had breast cancer and my great grandma died of it when she was young—so I had been going in for mammograms since the age of 30. During my pregnancy with my son Luke and while nursing him, I couldn’t get screened. I thought your breasts were protected from cancer during this time, anyway.
By the time the tumor was discovered, it was the size of a grapefruit. I’m sure you want to ask: how can you miss something so big and fast-growing like that? At the time my breasts were changing so much. They were engorged from nursing. As they deflated while I was weaning Luke, the tumor was found.
You were diagnosed with stage III triple-negative breast cancer. What were the challenges associated with that?
Triple negative is more rare, affecting 15 to 20 percent of patients. It’s a relatively new category of breast cancer. One of the things that makes it unique is that there is no drug to prevent recurrence. The only way to treat it is with heavy chemotherapy and, well, then you hope for the best. Oddly, I’ve known many women with three children, like me, who were diagnosed with triple negative.
So you jumped in and took immediate action after you got the news?
Well, I allowed myself a night of fun: The night I was diagnosed, I went to a U2 concert. It was already planned and there was no way I was going to miss it! The next day, I chose my oncologist. A week later, I started chemo. I didn’t have enough time for self-pity. I’m a mother of three kids, and you don’t have a lot of time to think about yourself. In my line of work, I’ve covered many wars; I worked for 15 years overseas. There was no way I was going to sit down and roll over and not fight it.
After chemo, you got a double mastectomy. How was that decision made?
My doctors were leaning toward the surgery. There wasn’t a lot of choice involved for me. I said, ‘Give me the max!’ Plus, a double mastectomy would allow me a nice reconstruction surgery. I was going to get something out of this!
You’re a runner. How important was exercise during treatment?
So important for my body and psyche. I ran the morning of every chemo session. And I also did Pilates two or three times per week. I wanted my body to be strong so that all systems would fire on all cylinders. The Pilates was especially important when it came to my double mastectomy. Pilates strengthens your core, improves breathing, stretches your muscles, and increases your range of motion—all factors that I believe helped me recover faster after surgery.
Would you call yourself a health nut during your treatment?
Yes! I really cleaned up my diet. I ate low fat, no dairy, no alcohol, no processed foods, whole grain everything, lots of veggies, heavy on the kale. I wanted to give my body the nutrition it needed to be strong and fight.
Why was living a healthy lifestyle so important?
After diagnosis, you’re looking at a year of your life that will be devoted to fighting and overcoming the disease. You need to look at it as a marathon year and get your body, mind, and spirit as strong as it can be.
What is something nice you can do for a friend who’s been diagnosed with cancer?
Deliver healthy, homemade meals to your girlfriend. My friends were sending these quinoa veggie dishes and kale soups after my chemo sessions. These meals give you such a powerful sense of nourishment. My friends at Fox all donated to this effort and it touches me to this day.
You’re celebrating four years of remission. Do you feel like the battle is behind you yet?
Almost. When I get to the five-year mark, I’ll really be able to breathe a sigh of relief. Four years out I still have scars from my cancer battle. The disease is an assault on your life, femininity, and womanhood. Today, I wear my scars with pride. My hair was long and blonde when I started and now it’s short and spiky silver—and I walk with my head held high and feel more beautiful than ever.
What advice do you have for staying positive in the face of a terrible diagnosis?
It’s important to feel beautiful during this process. Chemo is ugly: you’re bald, you lose your toenails so you can’t wear sandals or get pedicures, and your eyelashes fall out. One program that I love is called Look Good Feel Better. They provide workshops to women on how to wear wigs, apply makeup, tie beautiful scarves, and more to help you walk out of the house feeling good. I went out and bought comfy cozy cashmere sweaters, black leggings, boots, and a shawl. I felt stylish during chemo.
Any final words of encouragement for someone recently diagnosed?
Don’t let the diagnosis be a crushing blow. Though the process will be difficult, there are lots of advances that make it better. For example, there are now great anti-nausea drugs for chemo and there are great plastic surgeons to give you new, beautiful breasts. Battling cancer isn’t a piece of cake, but you can fight like hell!
Photo: Fox News Channel
Fox News correspondent Jennifer Griffin is cancer-free and thankful after treatment
Jennifer Griffin in her bed at Georgetown University Hospital after her surgery this month. (Courtesy of Jennifer Griffin)
Jennifer Griffin turns 41 on Tuesday, and you won’t hear any “over-the-hill” jokes from her. “Forty looks mighty good and mighty young and mighty awesome after what we have been through,” she told us.
In September, eight months after giving birth to her third child, the Fox News Pentagon correspondent was given a diagnosis of triple-negative breast cancer, an aggressive and deadly form of the disease that hits younger women. Last week, after months of chemo and a double mastectomy, she got the all-clear from her oncologist.
The good news was almost as shocking for her and husband Greg Myre as her sudden diagnosis: “I think we are still in shock from both, frankly.”
Jennifer Griffin. (Courtesy of Fox News)
Griffin chronicled her journey on a blog that she started to stay in touch with a few close girlfriends; it exploded in readership after she went on NBC’s “Today” show in February to talk about the disease. The blog soon became a hub for women with triple-negative. “It helped me get outside of myself and in the process,” she said. “If it could help other women, then that is what motivated me to keep going.”
Griffin on the job in Iraq. (Fox News)
Military pals lent support, notably with a combat “woobie” — a Marine camouflage sleeping bag, the kind guards drape over their shoulders while on duty on a cold night. “Every time I think that I am in a little pain from the double mastectomy, I think of them and put on my running shoes. Greg says I’ll be doing one-arm push-ups before anyone knows it.”
Next: radiation treatments, a few more surgeries to reconstruct her breasts, a summer hugging her kids.Then she plans to head back to work, covering national security for Fox. “I can’t wait to start traveling again and jumping out of Black Hawks and flying high on adrenaline, because I have been given a second chance,” she said. She’ll also become an ambassador for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure at its first race in Israel this fall.
Was she joking when she told us she wants to take her new breasts over to a “Dancing With the Stars” tryout? “It would be a shame to waste all this plastic surgery!” she said.
NEW YORK, NY–(Marketwired – Nov 3, 2015) – Jennifer Griffin, National Security Correspondent for Fox News Channel and breast cancer survivor, will serve as keynote speaker for the Fifth Annual Breast Cancer Summit on Fri., Nov. 13 at the Woodlands in Woodbury, NY. The annual event is hosted by Long Island Plastic Surgical Group, PC. The program focuses on patient education and provides an overview of the latest developments in detection, treatment and reconstruction. Attendance is free.
According to the American Cancer Society, in 2015 it is estimated that 231,840 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed among women and men. Excluding skin cancer, breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer for women which means that 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer during her lifetime.
The Breast Cancer Summit was created to assist those diagnosed with breast cancer, to bring together community and resources, and offer knowledge and support. In the past, the event has attracted 500 attendees, including cancer experts, researchers, doctors, nurses, breast cancer survivors, and advocacy groups. The program covers such topics as innovative breast cancer treatment, the latest cancer research updates and care, and progress achieved in the fight against cancer. The program will be live-streamed on www.BreastCancerSummit.com for those who may not be well enough to attend the program in person.
“It’s important to the practice to do our part and educate the community. We bring together patients, support groups, and medical professionals, and provide a public forum for learning and networking,” said Roger L. Simpson, MD, FACS, president of Long Island Plastic Surgical Group. “It’s an honor to have Ms. Griffin join us this year.”
In 2009 Griffin received the news which would change her life and become the biggest battle she would ever fight. She was diagnosed with stage 3 Triple Negative Breast Cancer. After 17 rounds of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and radiation treatments, she was declared in remission. She is a strong advocate for breast cancer awareness.
“Programs such as this Breast Cancer Summit are vitally important resources for those touched by this disease,” said Griffin. “I am honored to be a part of such an important event that attracts hundreds of attendees and experts who share insight and information with the public.”
Griffin joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in October 1999 as a Jerusalem-based correspondent. Since 2007 Griffin has reported daily from the Pentagon where she questions senior military leaders, travels to war zones with the Joint Chiefs and Secretaries of Defense, and reports on all aspects of the military.
To reserve your spot, visit www.BreastCancerSummit.com — but hurry, seating is limited and registration will close once capacity is reached.
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