October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and in recognition of this, 24/7 Wall St. wanted to showcase some well-known women who have defeated the disease. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women, with roughly 237,000 new cases each year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
About 1 in 8 women in the U.S. are said to develop breast cancer during their lifetime and it is the second leading cause of death from cancer among women. As deadly as it can be, many women are able to prevail over breast cancer.
24/7 Wall St. compiled a list of 25 famous women who survived their battle with breast cancer. It features women who were diagnosed at a range of ages and from a variety of professions. We only included women who have completed treatment and are now cancer-free.
Women who have an immediate family member, such as a mother, sister, or even a daughter, with a history of breast cancer are at much greater risk of developing cancer themselves — about twice as likely — as women without such history. Between 5% and 10% of breast cancer cases are considered to be hereditary, caused by an inherited mutation mainly in two genes, BRCA1 or BRCA2.
Women sometimes have a mastectomy if they have one of these abnormal genes to eradicate the cancer and increase the likelihood of it never returning, even if they don’t necessarily need the procedure. Actress Angelina Jolie, for example, was never diagnosed with breast cancer, but had a double mastectomy as a preventive measure. Her mother battled the disease for a decade and died at 56. Jolie carries the inherited mutated BRCA1 gene, and doctors informed her that she was at high risk of developing breast cancer.
While Jolie was not included on this list because she was never diagnosed with breast cancer, her surgeries are noteworthy. Having the procedure reduced her risk of developing breast cancer from 87% to less than 5%. Of the 25 women on this list, 14 have undergone at least a partial mastectomy.
Also not included on this list is Olivia Newton-John, who is in the midst of her third battle with breast cancer. The singer and actress had a string of hits in the 1970s before her best-known role as Sandy in the 1978 film “Grease.” She was first diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer in 1992, and, after having a mastectomy and enduring nine months of chemotherapy, her cancer had cleared. Unfortunately, after 21 cancer-free years, the disease resurfaced, and spread to her shoulder. As if twice wasn’t enough, she was diagnosed with a tumor in her back last year at the age of 68.
Breast cancer is most commonly diagnosed in women who are 55 years and older. However, women can start having annual mammograms at 40. Women who are at high risk can begin the screening process even earlier. Actress Christina Applegate was diagnosed with breast cancer at 36 — the youngest age at diagnosis on this list. Applegate’s mother had breast cancer, too. At the other end of the spectrum is Judy Blume, who was diagnosed at 74.
Eleven women on this list were diagnosed with breast cancer while in their 40s and 10 were diagnosed in their 50s. Three women have since passed, although not from their bout with breast cancer. Shirley Temple Black, Happy Rockefeller, and Betty Ford all go down in history as women who raised awareness of the disease during the 1970s, a time when such ailments were not publicly discussed. All three women defeated breast cancer and lived long lives.