17 Famous Americans Who Overcame Cancer

Cancer doesn’t discriminate. Regardless of who you are or where you’re from, there’s a good chance you know someone affected by the disease.

Unfortunately, cancer takes the lives of many people every day. Still, survival rates continue to rise. Better technology, screening, and treatment options are giving those diagnosed with cancer a chance to fight.

The people on this list show that cancer doesn’t have to be the end of things. Each of them faced it bravely and each of them lived to tell their story.

1: Anne Romney

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Anne Romney, the wife of Republican politician Mitt Romney, received a breast cancer diagnosis in 2008. After a lumpectomy to remove the diseased tissue, Romney was able to announce she was cancer-free.

In 2012, Romney spoke publicly about her cancer battle. Her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother also had cancer and unfortunately succumbed to the disease.

2: Sheryl Crow

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At only 44 years old, Sheryl Crow found out she had breast cancer. Only six years after her cancer battle, Crow discovered she had a benign brain tumor.

The singer spoke about her struggles in an interview with Good Housekeeping. She said her experiences had taught her to take care of herself and to tell people no when needed.

3: Julia Louis-Dreyfus

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Julia Louis-Dreyfus learned she had breast cancer in 2018. She announced the diagnosis on X (formerly Twitter) while assuring fans that she had a great support system and was ready to fight.

The Seinfeld star is currently in remission. She continues to advocate for breast cancer awareness.

4: Robin Roberts

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Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts learned she had breast cancer in 2007. Roberts was able to beat her cancer within a year.

However, she later found out she had myelodysplastic syndrome or MDS, a disease that attacks the blood and bone marrow. Luckily, her sister was a perfect match for a bone marrow transplant. Roberts has been in remission from her health struggles since 2012.

5: Larry King

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Larry King passed away in 2021 due to complications from a number of health problems. However, lung cancer wasn’t one of them.

King was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2017, and the surgery to treat it was successful. He was in remission when he faced other health problems, including heart issues, that led to his death at 87 years old.

6: Fran Drescher

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After years of seeing specialists and facing multiple misdiagnoses, Fran Drescher learned she had uterine cancer. The Nanny star underwent surgery and radiation to treat the disease.

After entering remission, Drescher wrote about her experience. True to her personality, her book was titled “Cancer Schmancer.”

7: Melissa Etheridge

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Singer and songwriter Melissa Etheridge famously performed at the Grammy’s with a bald head in 2005. She was undergoing treatment for breast cancer at the time.

Etheridge went through chemotherapy, radiation, and a lumpectomy to remove 15 lymph nodes. She’s currently cancer-free but continues to advocate for cancer research and awareness.

8: Rita Wilson

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Rita Wilson is an actress, singer, film producer, and Tom Hanks’ wife. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015. 

Wilson’s doctors performed a bilateral mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. Per her interview with People magazine, she stressed the importance of early detection and seeking a second opinion as keys to her own recovery. 

9: Edie Falco

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Sopranos star Edie Falco was in the middle of filming when she learned she had cancer. Within hours of her diagnosis, she was on set, where she claimed to use her negative emotions to fuel her character’s rage.

Despite undergoing chemotherapy, Falco managed not to miss a single day of work. She credited her resilience to becoming sober before her diagnosis.

10: Teresa Heinz Kerry

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Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of Former Secretary of State John Kerry, was diagnosed with cancer in 2009. At the time, ABC reported that she faced her diagnosis with calm bravery and didn’t cry when her doctor told her the news.

As the wife of an esteemed politician who had also battled prostate cancer in prior years, Kerry knew what she was up against. She had cancer in both breasts and underwent two lumpectomies and then radiation before becoming cancer-free.

11: Robert De Niro

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In 2003, Robert De Niro discovered he had prostate cancer at 60 years old. He learned about it early, thanks to regular PSA screening tests.

After undergoing treatment, De Niro spoke openly about his experience. He recovered quickly because he caught it early and remains an advocate for regular prostate cancer screening.

12: Rudy Giuliani

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Rudy Giuliani was mayor of New York City when he announced he had prostate cancer in 2000. It was an emotional announcement, given that the same disease had taken his father’s life.

Giuliani was 55 when he was diagnosed and managed to catch it early. He went through treatment successfully and is now cancer-free.

13: Hoda Kotb

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Emmy winner Hoda Kotb faced a breast cancer diagnosis in 2007. During the Today Show, she spoke with her co-host, Jenna Hager Bush, about her decision to go public with the news.

She said she hadn’t planned to say anything about her cancer but was encouraged to do so. Once she did, she said there were many benefits but also some downsides. Having others look at you with pity, she said, was one of the hardest things to see.

14: Wanda Sykes

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Wanda Sykes revealed she had breast cancer in 2011. The comedian opted for a double mastectomy to treat the disease.

Sykes said she was given the choice of monitoring the cancer to see what it did rather than undergoing treatment, but she decided against that. She had a family history of breast cancer and wanted to avoid future problems.

15: Lance Armstrong

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In 1996, Lance Armstrong’s doctors informed him that he had a potentially fatal form of testicular cancer. The celebrated cyclist was only 25 years old.

Armstrong fought through chemotherapy and multiple surgeries before staging a comeback. By 1998, he was in remission and back on his bike.

16: Kathy Bates

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Kathy Bates managed to beat cancer not once but twice. In 2003, she learned she had ovarian cancer. Then, in 2012, she found out she had breast cancer, leading to a double mastectomy.

Bates noted that she tested negative for the BRCA gene that’s commonly linked to breast cancer and encouraged women to get screened no matter what. Today, Bates is cancer-free but struggles with lymphedema, which can occur anytime the lymph system is damaged, as when lymph nodes are removed to treat cancer.

17: Jane Fonda

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Two-time Oscar winner Jane Fonda announced she was in remission from non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2022. She admitted that her treatment had been tolerable until the final round of chemo, which she said was much more difficult.

Despite undergoing chemotherapy to treat the disease, Fonda managed to stay active. She continued attending climate rallies and made other public appearances. She also brought attention to the many cancer-causing chemicals that come from our reliance on fossil fuels.

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