Celebrity Thyroid Patients

Famous People with Hypothyroidism, Thyroid Cancer, Graves' Disease

1
Oprah Winfrey

America's famous daytime diva Oprah Winfrey announced she was struggling with thyroid disease
Paul Hawthorne / Getty Images

A number of celebrities have thyroid conditions. No matter whether you are an athlete, politician, singer, actor, or a non-celebrity, you may have difficulties ranging from hypothyroidism to thyroid cancer. How they came to be diagnosed, their treatment, and recovery can be useful lessons that these conditions can happen to anyone.

America's daytime diva and media mogul Oprah Winfrey announced in 2007 that she had thyroid disease. Winfrey discussed her thyroid problem in her magazine and on her television program, generating a great deal of controversy based on the metaphysical, non-medical approach she followed and endorsed. The ways in which she described her condition and eventually said she was free of thyroid problems were confusing. Many other people with thyroid conditions had hoped that she would educate the public about thyroid problems.

2
Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton
Scott Olson, Getty Images News

Former first lady, Senator, Secretary of State, and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton released her medical records in July of 2015, indicating that she was being treated for hypothyroidism.

Interestingly, Clinton's medical report indicated that her doctor hadn't prescribed levothyroxine, the most common hypothyroidism, but instead had prescribed a natural desiccated thyroid drug, Armour Thyroid. This preparation includes the thyroid hormones T4 and T3 and other cofactors. While it has been in use for over 100 years, most doctors instead began prescribing levothyroxine, a synthetic form of the T4 hormone, back in the 1950s. Armour Thyroid is not considered to be the "standard of care." Some patients prefer the T4/T3 treatment it provides.

3
Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders, hypothyroid, thyroid condition
Joe Raedle/Getty Images News

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a contender for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, released his medical records in January of 2016. According to his physician, Sanders was in very good health and was being treated for hypothyroidism.

Senator Sanders' medical report indicated that he is being treated with levothyroxine for his underactive thyroid, which is the most common prescription drug treatment, for his underactive thyroid. Hypothyroidism is a common condition. It affects an estimated 30 million Americans, about one out of every 20 people over the age of 11. It is more common in people older than age 60. During the 2016 election, Sanders was age 74.

Other celebrities with hypothyroidism or similar conditions include: 

  • Fitness expert Jillian Michaels, known for being one of the trainers on "The Biggest Loser," said on her blog that she has hypothyroidism and weight problems. She said she takes thyroid medication and she offers an example of a healthy hypothyroidism diet.
  • "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" star Nia Vardalos has an unspecified thyroid condition. She says that made it easy for her to gain weight and difficult to lose weight.

4
Gina Rodriguez and Others with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis

gina rodriguez
Gina Rodriguez. Richard Sandoval

Gina Rodriguez, star of "Jane the Virgin," was diagnosed with hypothyroidism at age 19. Ten years later, she discovered that the cause of her hypothyroidism was Hashimoto's thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease of the thyroid gland. It is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the U.S. In this condition, your immune system begins to produce antibodies that attack your thyroid gland. The gland may enlarge or it may shrink, and it can become unable to produce enough thyroid hormone. It is predominantly a disease in women.

Other stars with Hashimoto's thyroiditis include:

  • Kim Cattrall of "Sex and the City," was diagnosed with Hashimoto's thyroiditis in 1998 and takes thyroxine. 
  • Kim Alexis, a former model, has Hashimoto's thyroiditis and is hypothyroid. She had symptoms for 10 years before she was finally diagnosed. She says a healthy diet and exercise helped her get rid of the weight she gained after she became hypothyroid.
  • Gena Lee Nolin, who starred on the hit television series "Baywatch," went through fatigue, weight gain, and other issues in each of her pregnancies, and was told she had post-partum depression. Nolin was finally diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease and hypothyroidism in 2008. Nolin publicly announced her commitment to work to positively raise worldwide thyroid awareness in 2011.
  • Linda Ronstadt was diagnosed with Hashimoto's thyroiditis in 1997 and was also diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2013.

5
Missy Elliott and Others with Grave's Disease

rapper, hip-hop, missy elliott, graves disease, graves' disease, hyperthyroidism, thyroid
Photo: Astrid Stawiarz, Getty Images Entertainment

In her 2011 VH1 "Inside the Music" profile and a People magazine interview, hip-hop star Missy Elliott publicly discussed her 2008 diagnosis with Graves' disease and hyperthyroidism. According to rapper Elliot, "It really hasn't slowed me down at all....I feel great." Graves' disease is a condition in which the immune system creates antibodies that can attack the thyroid gland, and make it overactive and leading to it producing too much thyroid hormone. Symptoms can include include weight loss, high heart rate, anxiety, insomnia, muscle weakness, and goiter. Elliot received radioactive iodine (RAI) treatment for the condition.

Other celebrities with Grave's disease include:

  • Olympic medalist Gail Devers has Graves' disease. She almost had to abandon her athletic career due to her thyroid problem. Graves' disease caused her to lose excessive weight and muscle. She testified to a Congressional committee about her misdiagnosis and the cost of medical mistakes. She had radioactive iodine treatment to disable her thyroid, and was put on thyroid hormone replacement therapy. She went on to win gold medals in the 100-meter dash at the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games.

  • Singer Toni Childs is in remission from Graves' disease. She dropped out of the music scene for nearly a decade to cope with her condition.

  • Former President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara Bush both were diagnosed with Graves' disease while he was in office.

6
Rod Stewart

Rocker Rod Stewart had thyroid nodules, which required surgery on the gland.
MJ Kim / Getty Images

Rocker Rod Stewart had surgery on his thyroid gland to remove a tumor, risking his singing voice. The growth was found during a routine CAT scan and initially was thought to be a benign vocal nodule. A biopsy determined it to be a slow-growing papillary thyroid carcinoma, which makes up 80 percent of thyroid cancer cases and has a high cure rate.

Stewart tells others the importance of health screening so tumors are caught early while they can be treated most successfully. He wrote about his experience in his autobiography. "Rod: The Autobiography of Rod Stewart." He was distressed during the six months after the operation as he waited for his voice to return. He started vocal therapy and was able to sing again after nine months, but his voice was an octave lower. He continued his successful singing career.

7
Sofia Vergara

"Modern Family" star Sofia Vergara, a thyroid cancer survivor
Getty Images Entertainment/Frazer Harrison

Actress Sofia Vergara successfully battled thyroid cancer in 2002, and has gone on to star as Gloria in the hit ABC comedy "Modern Family." Vergara told Parade magazine, "I've been through it all, so I don't take life's little dramas too seriously. I say, don't sweat the small stuff, because there's bigger stuff that can really make you sweat." She had her thyroid removed and is reliant on thyroid hormones. She became a spokesperson for AbbVie and the thyroid drug Synthroid.

8
Katee Sackhoff

"24" Actress Katee Sackhoff is a Thyroid Cancer Survivor
"24" Actress Katee Sackhoff is a Thyroid Cancer Survivor. Jemal Countess, Getty Images Entertainment

Actress Katee Sackhoff was diagnosed and treated for thyroid cancer in 2009. Sackhoff is known for playing Captain Kara "Starbuck" Thrace on "Battlestar Galactica," and Dana Walsh on "24."

Sackhoff told the New York Post: "Luckily, for me, I had one of the most curable forms of it. Once the surgery was done to remove my thyroid, I took nine months off." In January of 2010, USA Weekend wrote: "She recently had a one-year check-up, which showed no signs of cancer, but not all of her scars have healed. 'It was the scariest thing I've ever been through,' she says. 'I'm still in therapy trying to get over it.'"

9
Roger Ebert

Film critic Roger Ebert has struggled with thyroid cancer.
David Livingston / Getty Images

The late film critic Roger Ebert struggled with thyroid cancer. Ebert, best known for his thumbs up/thumbs down ratings of films, had several bouts of cancer. He first had a salivary gland tumor removed in 1987 and then papillary thyroid cancer was discovered in 2002. Ebert was at greater risk of developing thyroid cancer because he had radiation treatments when he was younger. Although his cancer had a good prognosis, he developed salivary cancer again. Thyroid cancer patients are at increased risk of developing a second primary cancer. He had further radiation treatments, surgery, and a tracheotomy as the result of a complication. He died in 2013.

10
Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, President of Argentina

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, President of Argentina. Pool, Getty Images News

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, President of Argentina, was diagnosed in December of 2011 with papillary thyroid carcinoma, the most common form of thyroid cancer. This type of cancer, when caught before it has spread, as it is in Fernandez's case, has a 20-year survival rate of 99 percent after treatment. Treatment is typically ​surgery to remove the thyroid gland.

11
Brooke Burke-Charvet

Brooke Burke-Charvet, co-host of Dancing With the Stars. Youtube/Brooke Burke-Charvet

Brooke Burke-Charvet, co-host of "Dancing With the Stars," announced in November of 2012 that she was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer. The 41-year-old mother of four revealed how a thyroid nodule had been detected, but she delayed followup evaluation. After various tests and a fine needle aspiration biopsy, the diagnosis of thyroid cancer was confirmed. She had surgery to remove the thyroid and was relieved that surgery did not affect her voice. She will take thyroid hormone the rest of her life.

12
Angie Everhart

Actress/model Angie Everhart is a thyroid cancer survivor. Katiecouric.com

Superstar model/actress Angie Everhart was diagnosed with a stage 1 thyroid cancer, had surgery, and is now cancer-free, and "feeling great on Armour Thyroid." She was having shoulder pain and sleep problems, so her doctor ordered an MRI, and they found a cancerous mass in her thyroid. It was a stage 1 thyroid cancer. She had surgery and is now cancer free. She is, however, making it a mission to help raise awareness of thyroid cancer.

More thyroid cancer survivors include:

  • Tipper Gore, former wife of former vice president Al Gore, had a thyroid tumor. The tumor was benign, but half of Gore's thyroid was removed in late 1999.
  • Actress Catherine Bell ("JAG") is a thyroid cancer survivor and has also been a spokesperson for the Thyroid Cancer Survivor's Association.
  • Comedian and actor Joe Piscopo is a long-term thyroid cancer survivor. His thyroid cancer was diagnosed in the 1990s.
  • Billionaire Redskins owner and entertainment entrepreneur Dan Snyder has successfully battled thyroid cancer.

Sources:

Garber JR, Cobin RH, Garib H, et al. Clinical Practice Guidelines for Hypothyroidism in Adults: Cosponsored by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and the American Thyroid Association. Endocrine Practice. 2012;18(6):988–1028.

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