20 Celebrities Who Have Had — or Are Battling — Breast Cancer – Everyday Health

Many celebrities have experienced breast cancer, including Christina Applegate, Shannen Doherty, and Wanda Sykes. Read about how these breast cancer survivors and others are using their star power to raise awareness.
In the United States alone, an estimated 252,710 women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States, the ACS notes. (It does occur in men, too, though at much lower rates: About 2,620 men are expected to develop the disease in 2020, according to the ACS.)
A number of factors increase a woman’s risk for breast cancer, including age, family history, or inherited changes in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Still, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) points out, having a risk factor doesn’t automatically mean a woman will get breast cancer, and conversely, some women will get the disease without being aware of any additional risk factors.
According to the ACS, there are currently more than 3.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States, including women who are undergoing treatment and those who have completed it. Given the statistics, it’s no wonder that some of those diagnosed will be celebrities. Many famous people cope by using their star status to raise awareness of the disease and share their stories so that others with breast cancer will know they are not alone.
There are several types of breast cancer, and different kinds have affected these celebrities. The type and the stage at which the cancer is diagnosed determine the prognosis. The most frequently occurring types, as outlined by the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, are ductal carcinoma in situ, invasive ductal carcinoma, and invasive lobular carcinoma.
Ductal carcinoma, the most common form of breast cancer, begins in the cells of the milk ducts in the breast. When abnormal cells are found in the lining of the ducts but haven’t yet spread, it’s called ductal carcinoma in situ, which is a noninvasive or preinvasive cancer. When the abnormal cells break through the walls of the duct and spread to surrounding tissue, the cancer is called invasive or infiltrating breast cancer.
Invasive lobular carcinoma originates in the milk-producing glands (or lobules) of the breast. Like ductal carcinoma, it can metastasize and spread to other parts of the body. There are several other kinds of breast cancer that are more rare, including inflammatory breast cancer, which accounts for 1 to 3 percent of all breast cancer.

In August 2015, actress Shannen Doherty, best known for her roles on the shows Beverly Hills, 90210 and Charmed, confirmed to People magazine that she was being treated for breast cancer. The news came out after it was reported on TMZ that Doherty was suing her former business manager for failing to pay her health insurance premiums, causing her coverage to lapse and resulting in the cancer being detected at a later stage than it would have been otherwise. According to the lawsuit, the cancer was “metastatic to at least one lymph node” at the time it was discovered.
Though Doherty stated in April 2017 that she was in remission after surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, by February 2020 the breast cancer had recurred and reached stage 4 (metastasized). Speaking about her diagnosis on Good Morning America, she noted that she originally hid the news while filming the 2019 reboot of 90210 because “people with stage 4 can work too. … Our life doesn’t end the minute we get that diagnosis. We still have some living to do.”
In October of 2019, Mathew Knowles, father of celebrity singers Beyoncé and Solange Knowles, announced that he had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Knowles suspected something was wrong after noticing a series of dots of blood on his shirt, he told Michael Strahan in an interview on Good Morning America. His doctor recommended a mammogram, which confirmed that he had breast cancer.
Knowles has since learned that he carries the BRCA2 gene mutation, which escalates risk for breast cancer, as well as prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, melanoma, and ovarian cancer. Knowles says that there is a long history of breast cancer in his family. Men make up the minority of cases of breast cancer diagnoses: about 2,200 men are diagnosed with the disease each year, compared with approximately 245,000 women, according to the CDC.
On September 28, 2017, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, of Seinfeld and Veep fame used Twitter to announce that she had breast cancer. “One in 8 women get breast cancer,” the 56-year-old Emmy Award–winning actress wrote. “Today, I’m the one.”
Louis-Dreyfus struck a positive note with her message — and used the opportunity to make a plug for more extensive healthcare coverage for all. “The good news is that I have the most glorious group of supportive and caring family and friends, and fantastic insurance through my union,” she wrote. “The bad news is that not all women are so lucky, so let’s fight all cancers and make universal healthcare a reality.”
Speaking to Vanity Fair in August 2019, Louis-Dreyfus revealed she had undergone six rounds of chemotherapy and a double mastectomy, after which she returned to film the final season of Veep, which earned her a seventh Emmy nomination, for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.
Former Good Morning America cohost Joan Lunden had her annual mammogram in early June 2014, and the result was negative. She also had her usual follow-up ultrasound because her breasts have dense, fibrous tissue. This time, however, a tumor was identified in her right breast, which a core biopsy later confirmed to be cancer.
"I sat there stunned — how could this be?" Lunden shared in her blog. "I considered myself fit and healthy, I get checked faithfully every year, and I didn’t have a history of breast cancer in my family."
She took immediate action and underwent chemotherapy, followed by a lumpectomy and radiation. At the same time, Lunden, whose father was a cancer surgeon, is using her experience to raise awareness about the importance of cancer screenings, breast self-exams, and early detection.
"I know I have a challenge ahead of me in this journey, however I have chosen to take it as an opportunity to fulfill my father's legacy and try to inspire others to protect their health," she wrote in her blog.
The former E! News host and star of E!'s Giuliana & Bill show revealed she had been diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer in October 2011. The then 36-year-old Giuliana Rancic had gotten a mammogram before receiving another round of IVF treatment for infertility when her doctor discovered the tumor. In December 2011, she underwent a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.
Rancic refused to let her diagnosis get in the way of having children. She and her husband had a son via a surrogate in August 2012. She also launched  Fab-U-Wish, an initiative that grants fashion, beauty, and celebrity-themed wishes to women undergoing treatment for breast cancer, which she now operates in partnership with the nonprofit organization The Pink Agenda.
The NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent was diagnosed with breast cancer in late August 2011 after an annual screening. "We discovered it in the earliest stage, it hadn’t spread, and I'm already back at work with a terrific prognosis," she told viewers. Mitchell, who was 64 at the time of her diagnosis, also encouraged women to go for their annual screenings. "Do it," she said. "This disease can be completely curable if you find it at the right time."
Mitchell was criticized, however, for inaccuracies in her on-air statements about breast cancer and for suggesting that her case was representative of what other women face.
The comedian discovered she had stage 0 breast cancer during a follow-up to her breast reduction surgery in 2011. Since she had a history of cancer on her mother's side of the family, the then 47-year-old Wanda Sykes decided to have a preventive double mastectomy. "I had both breasts removed because now I have zero chance of having breast cancer," she explained on The Ellen Degeneres Show.
Grammy Award–winning singer Melissa Etheridge not only beat breast cancer, she also wrote a song dedicated to breast cancer survivors titled "I Run for Life." She donated all of the royalties from the song to breast cancer charities. As Etheridge told Everyday Health, after her diagnosis with stage 2 breast cancer in 2004, she had a lumpectomy, had 15 lymph nodes removed, and underwent five rounds of chemotherapy and radiation.
Actress Edie Falco, known for her roles on The Sopranos and Nurse Jackie, learned she had stage 1 breast cancer in September 2003. Speaking to Health magazine in 2011, Falco related that, at first, the breast diagnosis left her gasping for breath, until she realized she was a strong woman and had the resources to fight it. Nowadays, not only is her career flourishing but she is also raising two children.
While the majority of breast cancer occurs in women, some men get it, too. In 2009, Peter Criss of the rock group Kiss told CNN.com that he felt like "the luckiest man on the planet" after surviving the breast cancer he first noticed as a lump in his left breast two years earlier. Since then, he has continued to make music, has published his autobiography, and is trying to get the word out that, yes, men are also susceptible to this disease.
Actress and entrepreneur Suzanne Somers may be best known for her roles on Three’s Company and other sitcoms, but she had also been fighting breast cancer for more than two decades. "When I was diagnosed with cancer, I was shocked," she told Everyday Health. "I never smoked. I never drank to excess. I ate right. And I didn't abuse pharmaceuticals. I had done the work! But I learned that we're all at risk for cancer."
Somers was first diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer after a routine mammogram in 2000. She underwent a lumpectomy and radiation therapy, and sought and received alternative therapies.
In July 2023, Somers revealed in a statement posted to Instagram that her breast cancer had returned.
“As you know, I had breast cancer two decades ago, and every now and then it pops up again, and I continue to bat it down,” she wrote. “I have used the best alternative and conventional treatments to combat it. This is not new territory for me. I know how to put on my battle gear and I’m a fighter.”
Somers died on October 15, 2023.
Breast cancer is much more common among older women, but it does sometimes occur in younger women. Actress Christina Applegate, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2008 at age 36, is an example. Applegate first underwent a lumpectomy, but after learning that she had the BRCA1 genetic mutation (a gene associated with an increased risk of both breast and ovarian cancer), she opted for a double mastectomy followed by the removal of her ovaries and fallopian tubes.
Applegate now appears on the Netflix show Dead to Me, where she plays a character who underwent a preventative double mastectomy due to the BRCA1 gene. Speaking to The Wrap in August 2019, the actress noted that her time on the show was “cathartic for me, to be able to go there and open up those doors again and examine that loss and pain that I’ve had to deal with in my life.” The role seems to suit her well: It earned her a fifth Emmy nomination, for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.
Sheryl Crow may be best known for her music, but she has used her celebrity status as a breast cancer survivor to also help raise awareness about the importance of early detection. In 2006, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a lumpectomy and radiation treatment. According to questions she answered on CNN.com in 2006, Crow had no signs or symptoms, but her cancer was detected via her yearly screening mammogram. She encourages all women, especially those with dense breasts like herself, not to skip this important exam. In October 2017, Crow used People.com to entreat women to get beyond "pink fatigue" and take the time to schedule a mammogram.
Like many celebrities, actress Cynthia Nixon of Sex and the City fame chose not to reveal her breast cancer diagnosis until after the fact. Diagnosed in 2006, she had a lumpectomy and then six and a half weeks of radiation therapy, she told Good Morning America. Nixon, whose mother is also a breast cancer survivor, stated that knowing her personal risk "made me more aware and more empowered when I faced my own diagnosis." She also joined the Susan G. Komen organization to help educate women around the world about breast cancer.

Singer Olivia Newton-John was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992 after a self-examination, which led her to her doctor for further testing. As Newton-John told Everyday Health, "I wasn't feeling right, and I had found lumps before, but this time, it just felt different." Even after a mammogram and needle biopsy came out negative, "my instincts were telling me that something wasn't right," she recalled. "After a surgical biopsy, they found the cancer."
"I don't tell the story to scare people," she said, "but to really stress the importance of knowing your own body and trusting your instincts. This is the very reason I am now such a big supporter of monthly breast self-exams." She’s also a supporter of the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia, which conducts research into various forms of cancer and provides treatment for those living with the disease.
After the cancer returned in 2013, Newton-John received hormone treatment that sent it into remission again, but it metastasized to her bones in 2017. She embraced an integrative approach, using complementary treatments such as CBD tinctures along with conventional approaches like radiation and hormone therapies. Newton-John passed away on August 8, 2022.
Many breast cancer survivors take up the cause, and musician Carly Simon is no exception. After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997 and undergoing treatment including chemotherapy, she said she hoped for more research into the disease. As Simon told CNN.com, "There's a feeling that if this had been a man's disease, it would have been licked already."
Actress Jaclyn Smith's breast cancer was found through her yearly mammogram and led to a lumpectomy and radiation in 2002. One piece of advice she shared with CNN.com is not to go it alone. Although her husband, a doctor himself, was a great source of strength and support, Smith noted, "One of the most important things you can do is remember the power of girlfriends. … Girlfriends saved my day." In fact, one friend who was particularly helpful to Smith was a breast cancer survivor herself.
Actress Rita Wilson told People magazine in April 2015 that she had had a double mastectomy following a diagnosis of invasive lobular carcinoma. Wilson, who is married to actor Tom Hanks, had been monitored for lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) for some time.
However, as she told The New York Times, when an early test came back negative — but something still did not feel right to her — she demanded a second opinion, and only then was the cancer was discovered. Wilson did not need chemotherapy or radiation following her mastectomies, and she subsequently had reconstructive surgery.
According to V.K. Gadi, MD, an oncologist at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, having LCIS in one breast raises the risk of developing any cancer in either breast.
Celebrity chef Sandra Lee announced in May 2015 that she had been diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) at age 48 following a routine screening mammogram. She initially had a lumpectomy to treat it, but, as Lee told Good Morning America coanchor Robin Roberts in an interview, “When the lumpectomy was done, they did not have clean margins.” Lee reported being told she was “a ticking time bomb,” and she was advised to have a double mastectomy, which she did.
The longtime partner of New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, Lee spoke out strongly in favor of starting screening mammograms early, in a woman’s twenties or thirties, and not waiting until age 50, as is recommended for most women by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. “If I would have waited,” she said, “I probably wouldn't even be sitting here.”
Lee experienced complications following her mastectomies and required a second surgery to treat an infection.

Former supermodel and reality TV star Janice Dickinson revealed to the Daily Mail in March 2016 that she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer after a doctor detected a pea-size lump in her right breast. A biopsy determined she had early-stage DCIS, a form of breast cancer that starts in the milk ducts.
According to Dickinson, “Initially when the doctor found the lump, it hurt. It became quite painful when you touch it. That's the point when I knew this is serious.”
In spite of her shock and fear, however, Dickinson said, “I am not gonna let that define me, the fear. I'm going to get through this; I'll be just fine.”
Dickinson’s past medical history is notable for anorexia, bulimia, alcoholism, and cosmetic surgery.
Dickinson’s then-fiancé, now-husband, Robert “Rocky” Gerner, MD, a psychiatrist, commented that his usually voluble bride-to-be was quieter following her diagnosis: “She seems different. She now goes through times that she's very silent and actually contemplating and meditating.”
According to a July 2016 article on People.com, Dickinson underwent eight weeks of radiation and two lumpectomies.
Additional reporting by Ingrid Strauch, Laura McArdle, and Eugenia Yun.
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