20 Famous Cancer Survivors and Their Stories

Published on:

Shiny cars. Red carpet. Flashing camera lights. These are the things you may associate with the celebrities of the world. You may not often think of them as humans like you (but they are!) and they’ve even been through cancer.

Jump ahead to these sections:

Many celebrities who have battled cancer and emerged victorious can be a major source of inspiration. Read on to find about some famous and well-known faces that kicked cancer to the curb.

Famous Pancreatic Cancer Survivors

Pancreatic cancer is hard to detect and often diagnosed when cancer is already well advanced. It is one of the deadliest types of cancer.

Here are a few celebrity pancreatic cancer survivors who have spread positive messages for cancer patients.

1. Alex Trebek

Alex Trebek, the famous host of the longest-running game show “Jeopardy!” was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer in March 2019. The survival rate for patients with pancreatic cancer at that stage is incredibly low. 

Trebek just reached his 1-year survival mark. 

2. Ruth Bader Ginsburg

As the second female Justice to be confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is an inspiration to all. What you may not know is that she has struggled with cancer for a long time. She was first diagnosed with early-stage pancreatic cancer in 2009. 

She underwent radiation therapy last summer after another malignant tumor was identified in her pancreas. 

3. John Lewis

When you think of John Lewis, cancer is not what comes to mind. The famous civil rights icon and Congressman has Stage IV pancreatic cancer.

He says that he’s fought for freedom, fundamental human rights, inequality, and he will now fight for his life.

4. Harry Reid

Harry Reid, the famous U.S. senator from Nevada, fought bravely against cancer and now his pancreatic cancer is in remission.

He has undergone aggressive treatment for cancer and his involvement in Democratic politics continues with the same spirit.

ยป MORE: Guide your loved one through a difficult loss one step at a time. Here's your complete checklist.

 

Famous Breast Cancer Survivors

One in every eight women will develop breast cancer during her lifetime. Did you know men can develop breast cancer as well? Since cancer doesn’t discriminate, celebrities also become a part of this alarming statistic. Some celebrities have even gone on to write books about breast cancer.

5. Cynthia Nixon 

Cynthia Nixon, “Sex and the City” costar and Tony award winner, was scared when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer. It wasn’t her first brush with cancer since her mother was also a survivor of the horrendous disease. 

However, she survived cancer and didn’t miss a single performance of her show.

6. Sheryl Crow

Sheryl Crow received her breast cancer diagnosis in 2006. The cancer was caught early and she had to undergo 7 weeks of radiation after minimally invasive surgery.

Since her recovery, she practices alternative methods of promoting body and mind health.

7. Christina Applegate

Christina Applegate, an Emmy award winner, became a famous breast cancer survivor at the age of 36.

She had a family history of breast cancer and followed an early detection plan that helped her catch cancer at an early stage.

8. Robin Roberts

Robin Roberts, co-anchor of the famous morning show “Good Morning America,” was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. After getting chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and a lumpectomy, she kicked cancer to the curb. 

Since then, she has been very public about her cancer struggles and has raised awareness about self-exams for breast cancer early detection.

9. Barbara Allen

Barbara Allen is a U.S. politician and a senator from Kansas. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 and had to undergo extensive treatment, including 12 rounds of chemotherapy.

After aggressive treatment, the doctors declared that she was cancer-free. 

Famous Lung Cancer Survivors

There are over 200,000 cases of lung cancer each year in the U.S. alone. Thankfully, several treatment options are available that help patients make a complete recovery if the disease is caught at an early stage.

9. Larry King

Larry King, the famous talk show host, was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2017. He was fortunate since it was caught at an early stage during a routine checkup.

He underwent successful surgery and within two weeks, he was back to work. 

10. Stefanie Powers

The famous actress most well known for her role in an American mystery series was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2008. She admits that the likely cause of her cancer was a smoking habit she picked up in her teens.

After surgery to remove a piece of her lung and subsequent treatment, she is now cancer-free and living her best life in her 70s. She never has gone back to smoking.

11. Ronnie Wood

The famous Rolling Stones guitarist was diagnosed with cancer in 2017. He found out about his cancer during a routine checkup before his European concert tour.

He was a chain smoker until he quit in 2016. Fortunately, the cancer was caught early on, and he recovered.

12. Nikki Giovanni

Activist and poet Nikki Giovanni was diagnosed with aggressive lung cancer in the 90s. She lost a lung to cancer but didn’t lose her positive demeanor.

Today, she is healthy and thriving and living proof that you can live a long, healthy life after lung cancer. 

Famous Ovarian Cancer Survivors

Ovarian cancer is sometimes known as the silent killer. However, the celebrities who have suffered from it haven’t been silent about it at all.

From Academy Award winners to Olympic athletes, there are countless stories of those who have beat ovarian cancer.

13. Shannon Miller

Seven-time Olympic medalist Shannon Miller is a famous ovarian cancer survivor. At age 33, she was a new mother and it was incredibly hard for her to hear the diagnosis.

After surgery and nine weeks of aggressive chemotherapy, she won another gold medal. This time, it was for beating cancer.

14. Kathy Bates

Kathy Bates, a famous Academy Award winner, battled ovarian cancer. The impressive actress is still cheerful and lively at age 70 after taking on both ovarian and breast cancer, but doesn’t sugarcoat her cancer journey. She is a vocal proponent of self-care and self-examination for breast cancer.

15. Rosa DeLauro 

The Democratic Congresswoman from Connecticut has been a cancer survivor for more than 30 years. She was diagnosed with cancer in 1986.

She was fortunate enough to catch it early and get the proper treatment at the right time.

16. Brandi Maxiell

Brandi Maxiell found out she had ovarian cancer at the very young age of 24 — while planning her wedding!

The symptoms of ovarian cancer are similar to what a lot of women go through during their menstrual cycle, which is why ovarian cancer is known as the silent killer. Maxiell knew it was something more, got checked out, and pulled through.

Other Famous Cancer Survivors

There are more than 120 types of cancers that exist. A lot of celebrities have been through cancer and have publicly shared their journeys so people can draw inspiration from them.

If you need some encouragement, watch any of the celebrity cancer documentaries that tell the story of people who defeated cancer.

17. Hugh Jackman

“X-Men” star Hugh Jackman has suffered skin cancer on more than one occasion and credits being outside in the hot Australian sun as a kid without sunscreen. He’s undergone several surgeries to remove cancerous skin.

18. Ben Stiller

Ben Stiller was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2014. The 52-year-old actor has successfully beaten cancer.

Since then, he’s been a vocal advocate for cancer awareness and early detection tests. 

19. Michael Hall 

“Dexter” star Michael Hall was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma when he was 38 years old. His father had died of prostate cancer when he was just 39. Hall is a proud cancer survivor today and inspires millions of fans.

20. Robert de Niro

You know Robert de Niro as the tough guy from “Taxi Driver” and “Goodfellas.”

What you may not realize is that he was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the age of 60. He’s been cancer-free for more than 15 years!

You Can Beat Cancer—Whether You’re a Celebrity or Not 

Cancer can be life-changing, whether you live in Hollywood or not. But fighting this dangerous enemy can bring out the best in human resilience. Survivors say they’ve learned important lessons and savor every breath they take. If you know someone who made it through this deadly disease, be sure to congratulate him or her by sending encouraging notes, cards, and cancer survivor gifts.

And if you’re fighting cancer yourself, take inspiration from famous cancer survivors who have been where you are — and won the battle.

Icons sourced from FlatIcon.