Famous Breast Cancer Survivors

How Celebrities Overcame Breast Cancer

Edie Falco
Wikimedia Commons

Breast cancer does not discriminate. It's a disease that can affect you whether you're famous or not. There are many celebrities who are breast cancer survivors, and here are a few of them—singers, actresses, journalists, judges, and activists. If you have been diagnosed with the disease, find out more about how they stayed strong and got through it. 

Famous Breast Cancer Survivors

Edie Falco: One of the stars of TV's The Sopranos, Edie Falco was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003 and secretly battled it.

In 2014, she told National Public Radio: "I found out in the morning, and then I had to go to work, and I told very few people, but I told the producer. ...I said, 'I have an opportunity to meet this doctor in an hour, can I go and do that and then come back and shoot?' And that's what I did. I met this one doctor who talked me through the next step or whatever, and then I went and shot a couple of scenes after that, and that was pretty surreal. ...It's funny; I have very weird memories of that day. But it helped me to just keep moving, to not have it be this huge comma in my life where everything waited. I was able to pretty much keep up my schedule and go through what I needed to go through. I wouldn't have done well if everybody had known."

Melissa Etheridge: Music icon Melissa Ethridge was diagnosed in 2004 with breast cancer. Etheridge is now doing well. "I am the healthiest I have ever been in my life," she told ABC News in 2015.

"It excites me every day when I can wake up and feel energy and feel good and feel purpose. The changes I made were big and not easy. Sugar is a drug, incredibly addictive. That one change can make a huge difference in your life."

Gloria Steinem: American feminist, journalist, and social and political activist, Gloria Steinem discovered a lump in her breast in 1986, soon after turning 50.

She retreated from the public eye to have surgery and radiation. Today, she is still championing women's rights. “The cancer served a real purpose, making me a little bit more conscious of time,” she told HBO in 2011. 

Jaclyn Smith: Smith, of Charlie's Angels fame, was diagnosed with cancer in her left breast. Luckily, the lump was small and discovered early, due to her annual mammogram. “The word ‘cancer’ is what stood out," she told the New York Daily News in 2012. "That’s a word I didn’t even like to say. It was very surreal. I couldn’t get a grip on it. I think my first words were, 'Will I be here for my children?’" She underwent a lumpectomy and eight weeks of radiationchemotherapy wasn't necessary in her case because the cancer hadn't spread. Smith credits her friends for helping her get through it all, including her Charlie's Angels co-star Kate Jackson, who is also a breast cancer survivor. She stressed to the newspaper the importance of facing your fear and getting annual breast exams so you can detect any problems quickly. 

Olivia Newton-John: This well-known singer and actress was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992 and underwent a mastectomy and breast reconstruction. Newton-John found that her first instincts about treatment weren't always right.

When her cancer was diagnosed, she was scared of having chemotherapy and considered forgoing it and using alternative treatments, such as homeopathy and acupuncture instead. "Common sense prevailed," Newton-John told CNN in 2007. "One of my girlfriends said, 'Why would you want to risk even that one cancer cell? You have a child.'" 

Sandra Day O’Connor: Former Supreme Court Justice (and the first female Supreme Court Justice) Sandra Day O’Connor battled breast cancer in 1988. She was treated with a mastectomy and returned to work six days later. She told the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship in 1994 that having the disease "fostered a desire in me to make each and every day a good day." When she received her diagnosis, she said: "All of a sudden my face and hands, my whole body tingled.

It couldn't be true. I'm too busy. I feel fine." During her treatment, she shed a few tears. She said she was grateful that she had work to do, which kept her from focusing too much on the cancer.  

Cokie Roberts: Award-winning broadcast journalist and author Cokie Roberts was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002. She received a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation. She recognized that having support throughout the process was critical. She had a friend take her to chemo so she wouldn't miss out on any important information. “It made a difference and it was actually fun. We never get that kind of time with a friend. It was useful to have someone with me to be the reporter," she has said. She enjoys raising money for breast cancer research, as well as raising awareness about the disease. She has said: “You have to pay attention to who you are. You need to know your family history as well as you can. It is important for young women to have preventive care. If you catch any women’s cancers early it’s the difference between life and death. Do you really want to leave your kids without a mother?” she asks.


National Public Radio. "Edie Falco On Sobriety, The Sopranos, And Nurse Jackie's Self-Medication." http://www.npr.org/2014/04/09/300983914/edie-falco-on-sobriety-the-sopranos-and-nurse-jackies-self-medication

ABC News. "Melissa Etheridge: How My Life's Changed 10 Years After Cancer" http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/melissa-etheridge-lifes-changed-10-years-cancer/story?id=31868667


New York Daily News. "Jaclyn Smith recalls breast-cancer fright." http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/charlie-angels-star-jaclyn-smith-recalls-breast-cancer-fright-article-1.1172442 

CNN. "Olivia Newton-John, Jaclyn Smith on surviving breast cancer." http://www.cnn.com/2007/HEALTH/conditions/10/18/ep.breast.cancer/index.html?iref=nextin



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