Special Report

Famous Women Who Beat Breast Cancer

February 4 is World Cancer Day, and in recognition of this, 24/7 Tempo decided to highlight several well-known women who have defeated the disease. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

About one in eight women in the United States will develop breast cancer during their lifetime. After lung cancer, it is the second leading cause of death from cancer among women. These are the most common types of cancer in men and women.

24/7 Tempo compiled a list of 29 famous women who survived their battle with breast cancer. We reviewed sources such as the National Breast Cancer Foundation to create our list, which 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.

Click here to read about the famous women who beat cancer.

Women who have an immediate family member, such as a mother, sister, or even a daughter, with a history of breast cancer are at a much greater risk of developing cancer themselves — about twice as likely — as women without such history. It is important for women to check for hereditary breast cancer and other cancers. Here are some other health tips every woman should know.

Some of the women on this list have died, 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.

Source: The Heart Truth / Wikimedia Commons

1. Betsey Johnson (b. 1942)
> Profession: Fashion designer
> Age at diagnosis: 57

Renowned fashion designer and New York City street fashion pioneer Betsey Johnson had breast cancer in 1999 at the age of 57. At the time, one of the designer’s saline breast implants had ruptured. A few weeks after having the implants removed, she felt a grape-sized lump at the site of the scar, which turned out to be cancerous. During the ensuing lumpectomy, radiation, and six months of chemotherapy, no one but her daughter knew that the woman who ended her fashion shows by doing a cartwheel was fighting for her life. By 2000, Johnson was declared in remission, and to this day she designs charitable apparel during Breast Cancer Awareness Month as a way to give back.


Source: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

2. Betty Ford (1918-2011)
> Profession: First lady/activist
> Age at diagnosis: 56

Betty Ford was diagnosed with breast cancer just weeks after her husband Gerald became president following the resignation of Richard Nixon in 1974. The first lady’s diagnosis served as a turning point in raising awareness for breast cancer. In the 1970s, it was almost taboo to speak openly about the disease. Ford, however, didn’t hold back on informing people of her condition. She had a mastectomy to eradicate the cancer. Ford also became an advocate for the emerging Equal Rights Movement and pushed for women’s right to choose. Ford was named one of Time magazine’s Women of the Year in 1975. She beat cancer and lived to be 93.

Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

3. Carly Simon (b. 1945)
> Profession: Singer
> Age at diagnosis: 52

Carly Simon, a musician who won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, and a Grammy Award for her song, “Let the River Run,” was told she had breast cancer at the age of 52. Simon, whose father co-founded publishing company Simon & Schuster, was diagnosed in 1997 after several lumps were removed from her breasts. She underwent chemotherapy, a mastectomy, and reconstructive surgery. She has been cancer-free for nearly two decades and is now 74 years old.

Source: Presley Ann / Getty Images

4. Christina Applegate (b. 1971)
> Profession: Actress
> Age at diagnosis: 36

Actress Christina Applegate, who played Kelly Bundy in the 1980s-90s series “Married with Children,” was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 when she was 36. Applegate’s mother had breast cancer, which put her at greater risk of developing the disease. Knowing her family history, Applegate’s doctor ordered a series of tests to see if she had any traces of the cancer. A malignant tumor was discovered through an MRI. Early detection saved her life. She had a bilateral mastectomy to significantly reduce the chances of the cancer coming back or spreading elsewhere.


Source: Jemal Countess / Getty Images

5. Cynthia Nixon (b. 1966)
> Profession: Actress, activist
> Age at diagnosis: 36

Best known for her role as Miranda Hobbes in the comedy and drama series “Sex and the City,” Cynthia Nixon was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002. She did not inform the public of her diagnosis until after having undergone a lumpectomy and radiation. About six years after she made her battle with cancer public, she announced she was an official ambassador for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation. Nearly 10 years cancer-free, Nixon felt healthy enough to challenge New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the Democratic primary in 2018, though her effort failed.

Source: Ryan Pierse / Getty Images

6. Giuliana Rancic (b. 1974)
> Profession: TV personality
> Age at diagnosis: 36

Giuliana Rancic has been one of the prominent faces of “E! News” since she landed the gig as co-host in 1999. Rancic and her husband Bill had been trying to have children for years, and it wasn’t until the third round of in vitro fertilization that doctors noticed an abnormality. In a mammogram preceding the IVF procedure, an early-stage tumor was detected. Doctors attempted to remove the lump, but the procedure failed to eradicate all the cancerous cells. Knowing that chemotherapy and radiation would hinder their chances of conceiving, Rancic decided to have a mastectomy. Today, the couple has a child through a gestational surrogate, and Rancic lives cancer-free.


Source: Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images

7. Gloria Steinem (b. 1934)
> Profession: Women’s rights activist
> Age at diagnosis: 52

The famed feminist, author, and political activist Gloria Steinem at 85 is the oldest cancer survivor on this list. Steinem was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 52 in 1986. She underwent a lumpectomy and radiation and has been free of cancer ever since. She still plays an active role in advocating for women’s equality, giving lectures, and speaking at events across the U.S., including the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, D.C.

Source: Harry Benson / Getty Images

8. Happy Rockefeller (1926-2015)
> Profession: Socialite
> Age at diagnosis: 48

The socialite Margaretta “Happy” Rockefeller entered the limelight after she divorced her first husband in 1963 to marry New York Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller. It’s believed that Nelson lost the Republican presidential nomination in 1964 because he also divorced his wife so that he could be with Happy, who was 18 years his junior. Ten years later, as Nelson waited for the Senate to approve him to be vice president to President Gerald Ford, Happy was diagnosed with breast cancer. She endured a double mastectomy around the same time Ford’s wife Betty had a mastectomy for her breast cancer. Both women are credited with boosting awareness about the importance of early detection.

Source: Stephen Lovekin / Getty Images

9. Hoda Kotb (b. 1964)
> Profession: News anchor
> Age at diagnosis: 42

“Today” show anchor Hoda Kotb is a breast cancer survivor. In 2007 she received the dreaded phone call from her doctor that confirmed she had the disease. Kotb had a mastectomy followed by reconstructive surgery. Luckily, she didn’t require chemotherapy because the cancer had not spread to her lymph nodes. Instead, she took tamoxifen, a drug used to treat early-stage breast cancer post surgery. This drug, like chemotherapy and radiation, can cause infertility. At the age of 55, Kotb is cancer-free and has adopted a baby girl.


Source: Keystone / Getty Images

10. Jaclyn Smith (b. 1945)
> Profession: Actress
> Age at diagnosis: 57

Best known for her roles in “Charlie’s Angels” and “The Adventurers,” Jaclyn Smith was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 57. Doctors found the cancer in a mammogram in 2002. A lumpectomy and radiation followed her diagnosis. Smith credits her recovery to positive energy from her girlfriends and independent research that her husband, a pediatric cardiac surgeon, assisted her in. Smith remains cancer free today at 73.

Source: Evening Standard / Getty Images

11. Judy Blume (b. 1938)
> Profession: Author
> Age at diagnosis: 74

Author of classic children’s and young adult books such as “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret” and “Blubber,” Judy Blume was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 at 74 years old. As is the case with nearly every woman who gets breast cancer, her diagnosis utterly shocked her. She didn’t have any family history of the disease, hadn’t eaten red meat 30 years prior to her diagnosis, never smoked, and stayed away from alcohol. Blume’s case is an example of cancer occurring from random factors. The author is now 81 years old, living free of cancer.


Source: Mark Davis / Getty Images

12. Julia Louis-Dreyfus (b. 1961)
> Profession: Actress
> Age at diagnosis: 56

Julia Louis-Dreyfus entered the limelight for her role as Elaine Benes in the comedy series “Seinfeld.” She was diagnosed with breast cancer just one day following the 2017 Emmy Awards. She had surgery and received her last round of chemotherapy in February of this year. Louis-Dreyfus was able to continue her starring role in the final season of HBO’s comedy series “Veep,” which ended this May.

Source: Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

13. Kathy Bates (b. 1948)
> Profession: Actress
> Age at diagnosis: 55

Long-time actress Kathy Bates is known for playing a range of roles in classic films such as “Fried Green Tomatoes” and “Titanic.” Bates, now 71, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2003 and then breast cancer in 2012. Although Bates tested negative for the often-hereditary mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, several women in her family had breast cancer, so she decided to have a bilateral mastectomy. Now cancer-free, she appeared in six different series and movies in 2018 alone. She is still dealing with health issues, however, related to breast cancer. In January, the Oscar winner revealed that she was diagnosed with lymphoedema, an incurable condition that causes body tissue to swell. Lymph nodes are usually removed during breast cancer surgery, and removing them can restrict the flow of fluids to the arms, causing the condition.

Source: Roy Jones / Getty Images

14. Maggie Smith (b. 1934)
> Profession: Actress
> Age at diagnosis: 73

Acclaimed actress Maggie Smith, now 84, was diagnosed with breast cancer 11 years ago. In 2008, Smith endured a brutal fight with chemotherapy during the filming of “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.” Smith didn’t believe she would make it past treatment because of its toll on her physical and mental health. She also didn’t believe she would return to acting. A decade later, Smith has made a full recovery and continues to act, namely in the “Downton Abbey” series, which aired from 2010 to 2015, and in the “Downton Abbey” movie that was released in September.


15. Melissa Etheridge (b. 1961)
> Profession: Singer
> Age at diagnosis: 43

Rock singer Melissa Etheridge learned at an early age that she could write songs about hardship. She started playing guitar at eight years old, but little did that young girl know she would be writing about having breast cancer 35 years later. In 2004, Etheridge was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer, undergoing a lumpectomy, the removal of several problematic lymph nodes, and five rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. Etheridge wrote a song called “I Run for Life,” which is dedicated to breast cancer survivors. She donated all of the song’s royalties to breast cancer charities.

Source: Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for Delta Air Lines

16. Rita Wilson (b. 1956)
> Profession: Actress
> Age at diagnosis: 58

Rita Wilson, the actress known for her roles in films such as “Sleepless in Seattle” and “Jingle All the Way” and spouse of Tom Hanks, is a breast cancer survivor. She was diagnosed with invasive lobular carcinoma in 2015 at the age of 58. WIlson had a double mastectomy and was able to avoid chemotherapy and radiation. Today, she is cancer-free because a friend encouraged her to get a second opinion after her first scan did not indicate any trace of cancer.


Source: Robin Marchant / Getty Images

17. Robin Roberts (b. 1960)
> Profession: News anchor
> Age at diagnosis: 46

“Good Morning America” co-anchor Robin Roberts was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 at the age of 46. She did a self breast exam and found the lump. A biopsy confirmed that the tumor was cancerous. Roberts had a partial mastectomy and chemotherapy to treat the cancer. But her battle didn’t end after her cancer cleared. Five years after her diagnosis, she developed myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a rare blood disease that can result from cancer treatment. Despite battling the vicious condition, Roberts remains a co-host for “GMA.”

Source: Alex Wong / Getty Images

18. Sandra Day O’Connor (b. 1930)
> Profession: Former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court
> Age at diagnosis: 58

Sandra Day O’Connor was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1988. The first female Supreme Court justice kept her treatment on the downlow for a few years. In 1994, she revealed that she had had a mastectomy. Prior to this disclosure, court officials would only say that she had “undergone surgery.” The surgery paid off and O’Connor is 89 years old.

Source: Noam Galai/WireImage/Getty Images

19. Sandra Lee (b. 1966)
> Profession: Chef
> Age at diagnosis: 48

Celebrity chef Sandra Lee is known as the host of television series on different networks, including Food Network, Cooking Channel, and HGTV. In 2015, she was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ, a form of breast cancer that is highly treatable if detected early. Unfortunately, Lee’s case was severe. Her lumpectomy did not result in clear margins, a medical term meaning all of the cancer cells have been removed. After undergoing a double mastectomy she contracted an infection that required another surgery. Now cancer-free, Lee has been active in raising awareness. She and her former partner, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, promoted breast cancer legislation in 2017 that will improve early detection and give residents of New York state better access to breast cancer care.


Source: Mike Coppola / Getty Images

20. Sheryl Crow (b. 1962)
> Profession: Singer
> Age at diagnosis: 44

Sheryl Crow is a well-regarded singer and songwriter, and has won nine Grammys. Crow was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006 shortly after calling off a short-lived engagement to cyclist Lance Armstrong. Crow’s treatment involved a lumpectomy and seven weeks of radiation. At 57, Crow remains cancer-free and lives a quieter life in Nashville, Tennessee. She continues making music and released her album “Threads” earlier this year.


Source: Victor Blackman / Getty Images

21. Shirley Temple Black (1928-2014)
> Profession: Actress/diplomat
> Age at diagnosis: 44

A renowned child movie star of the 1930s, Shirley Temple Black was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 44. Black — along with Betty Ford — was one of the first high-profile women to talk about her battle with breast cancer. Diagnosed in 1972, when those in the limelight were reluctant to talk about any sort of ailment, Black made it known that she was having a mastectomy. She received more than 50,000 letters from well-wishers. Black lived the next 40 years of her life as a devoted advocate for breast cancer awareness.

Source: Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images

22. Suzanne Somers (b. 1946)
> Profession: Actress
> Age at diagnosis: 54

Suzanne Somers, known for her roles in the television shows “Three’s Company” and “She’s the Sheriff,” was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer at the age of 54 in 2001. She opted out of a traditional treatment plan, undergoing a lumpectomy and radiation, but not chemotherapy. Somers instead adopted a holistic approach, including Iscador injections. Iscador is a mistletoe extract and alternative treatment that some believe can eradicate cancer. Somers injected the extract for a decade and claims to be healthier than ever. Her journey with breast cancer inspired her to switch career paths from actress to motivational speaker.

Source: Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images

23. Wanda Sykes (b. 1964)
> Profession: Comedian
> Age at diagnosis: 47

Wanda Sykes is an actress, comedian, and breast cancer survivor. Sykes, who has appeared in comedy series such as “Black-ish” and “Broad City,” was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ in 2011. DCIS is also known as stage zero breast cancer because it is not life-threatening but has the potential to become invasive if left untreated. Sykes decided to have a double mastectomy to reduce her chances of developing a more severe breast cancer in the future.


Source: Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images

24. Joan Lunden (b. 1950)
> Profession: TV personality
> Age at diagnosis: 64

Joan Lunden, a fixture on “Good Morning America” from 1980 to 1997, was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer in 2014. She underwent chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation treatment. Lunden talked about her battle with cancer in her book “Had I Known” and started a streaming video channel about surviving breast cancer.

Source: Theo Wargo / Getty Images

25. Edie Falco (b. 1963)
> Profession: Actress
> Age at diagnosis: 39

While portraying the long-suffering wife of a New Jersey organized crime boss in the HBO series “The Sopranos,” Edie Falco was dealing with real-life struggles after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003. Falco filmed episodes of the hit series around her chemotherapy treatments and only informed her HBO bosses and family about her condition. Her cancer is now in remission, and Falco, who had delayed becoming a mother, has adopted two children.


Source: Mark Davis / Getty Images

26. Maura Tierney (b. 1965)
> Profession: Actress
> Age at diagnosis: 44

Actress Maura Tierney had a flourishing career. Her credits include movies such as “Liar, Liar” (1997), “Primary Colors (1998), and “Instinct” (1999), as well as a role on the long-running television drama “ER.” Tierney was cast in the show “Parenthood” but had to drop out in 2009 after she discovered she had early-stage breast cancer and had a skin-sparing mastectomy. The cancer was more aggressive than the doctors thought, so Tierney also had three months of chemotherapy. After completing treatment, Tierney shared her experiences and encouraged patients as a spokeswoman for the “Chemotherapy: Myths or Facts” campaign. Tierney can be seen in the Showtime program “The Affair.”

Source: Larry French / Getty Images

27. Andrea Mitchell (b. 1946)
> Profession: TV journalist
> Age at diagnosis: 64

Veteran NBC journalist Andrea Mitchell was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 after she had her an annual screening. The cancer was at its earliest stage and had not spread, and Mitchell was able to return to work after getting treatment. She urges women to get annual screenings.

Source: Mark Makela / Getty Images

28. Janice Dickinson (b. 1955)
> Profession: Supermodel/TV personality
> Age at diagnosis: 61

Former supermodel and reality TV star Janice Dickinson revealed in March 2016 that she was diagnosed with breast cancer. At first she thought the lump in her breast was the result of cosmetic surgery gone wrong. But a biopsy revealed she had early-stage ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), a type of breast cancer that develops in the milk ducts.

Dickinson credits the support of her then-fiancé, Robert “Rocky” Gerner, with helping her get through six months of radiation treatments. As of August 2016, she was cancer free.


Source: Scott Barbour / Getty Images

29. Kylie Minogue (b. 1968)
> Profession: Singer
> Age at diagnosis: 36

Australian pop singer Kylie Minogue was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 at age 36, putting the brakes on her singing career and delaying her plans to become a mother. Minogue underwent a lumpectomy where it was discovered that she had breast cancer. Minogue has made a full recovery and is back to performing.

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