A woman is diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States every two minutes. For men it’s less than that, but still a possibility.
Though the women and men in this list are well known, they still fall within those same statistics. Their stories aren’t any more important than any other person, but they do help bring awareness to the issue, which is why we feature them now.
Click through the slideshow above to see who they are, and continue reading to learn their stories.
Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts turned the camera on herself in 2007 when she announce she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer. She had the lump removed and returned to the news desk less than a month later, completing eight chemotherapy treatments, followed by radiation. In 2012, she underwent a bone marrow transplant for MDS, or myelodysplastic syndrome, but after nearly six months off, Roberts returned to the anchor’s chair. She’s now 52.
At 37, Angelina Jolie shocked the world when she revealed she’d undergone an elective double mastectomy. She had discovered she carries the BRCA1 gene, which took her mother’s life at age 56, and underwent the procedure as a preventative measure.
In 2008 at the age of 59, Ann Romney — wife of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney — was diagnosed with a non-invasive form of breast cancer. After having a lumpectomy and undergoing radiation, she is currently living cancer-free. Romney has said about her recovery, “It’s great to have loved ones around you. You don’t fight these battles alone, you fight them with your friends and family.” Now 65, she credits her survival to being diagnosed early.
Known for her bright colors, street-style fashion and acrobatic antics at her runway shows, Johnson was diagnosed in 2002 at the age of 60. She underwent a lumpectomy and subsequent radiation treatment, and has since become an outspoken voice for breast cancer awareness. She’s now 72, just finished a reality show for Style network, and continues designing her brand.
Iconic singer-songwriter Carly Simon, now 69, had initially declined having the lump in her breast removed. She told The Independent, “I didn’t insist on it coming out because I don’t like operations.” However, in 1997, she had a mastectomy and underwent chemotherapy. “I feel stronger and more vital than ever,” she told The New York Daily News. “When you actually have a battle, it’s better than when you don’t know how to fight.”
The woman who played responsible Miranda Hobbes on Sex and the City was initially private about her battle with breast cancer. However, two years after treating her lumpectomy with radiation, she started speaking openly about the experience and has since become one of the most visible advocates for increased awareness.
The legendary singer and star of Julia and Dynasty discovered she had cancer in her early 60s. Her lumpectomy and 36 radiation treatments were successful, and she eventually made it her mission to urge more postmenopausal women to get tested. She has repeatedly stated that she would not be alive today had it not been for her yearly mammogram.
Another Olympian who battled breast cancer, Dorothy Hamill got her diagnosis in 2007. She went through treatment in 2008, successfully beat the disease, and adopted a low-fat, plant-based diet. She believes her lifestyle helps prevent the chances for a recurrence of the disease. Now 58, Hamill raises awareness of breast cancer and the importance of early detection through the Stand Up to Cancer events.
The 51-year-old award-winning actress was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002 while working on the HBO series The Sopranos. Like Cynthia Nixon, she also kept it secret from the general public, entering treatment and emerging cancer-free in 2004. She later told Health.com, “It was very important for me to keep my diagnosis under the radar, even from the cast and crew of ‘The Sopranos,’ because well-meaning people would have driven me crazy asking, ‘How are you feeling?’ I would have wanted to say, ‘I’m scared, I don’t feel so good, and my hair is falling out.”
E! host Giuliana Rancic, 40, discovered she had early-stage breast cancer while undergoing in vitro fertilization treatments. She had a double mastectomy in 2012. Later, she told People.com, “My breasts have never defined me — and now they never will.” As for her family dreams, the Rancics’ son, Duke, was born through a surrogate in August 2012.
Today show co-host Hoda Kotb, 50, was diagnosed with a malignant lump in her breast in 2007 and a week later had a mastectomy. She kept a video diary during the procedure, and shared it with Today viewers to show that breast cancer is a manageable, survivable illness.
She may have beaten down tons of bad guys as Kelly Garrett from Charlie’s Angels, but when Jaclyn Smith found out she had breast cancer her mind went to a dark place.” But with education, a lumpectomy and radiation she beat back the cancer like any other foe. “I’m here, and I’m so grateful,” she told The New York Daily News. “The experience made me so aware of living life right.”
When Jaclyn Smith discovered she had breast cancer, one of the women who helped her through the process was former Charlie’s Angels co-star Kate Jackson. She was diagnosed and treated twice, once in 1987 filming her series Scarecrow and Mrs. King, then again in 1989. She toldPeople magazine in 1992, “ I had to decide whether I wanted to live or to die. And if you choose life, as I did, it’s never the same.”
The 66-year-old Oscar-winner and star of the upcoming American Horror Story: Coven series had ovarian cancer in 2003 before doctors found a tumor in her left breast in 2012. She had a double mastectomy and used Twitter to tell her fans. “Hey All, sorry for the long silence. I was diagnosed with breast cancer 2 months ago & am recovering from a double mastectomy. I don’t miss my breasts as much as I miss Harry’s Law.”
Australian singer Kylie Minogue, 46, almost lost her chance to fight breast cancer when she got a misdiagnosis at age 36. However, a second round of tests revealed a lump in her left breast, which she treated with a partial mastectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation.
The pop queen used her worldwide fame to encourage women to trust their gut when visiting the doctor. “Just because someone is in a white coat and using big medical instruments doesn’t necessarily mean they’re right,” she told Ellen DeGeneres in 2007. As a result, Minogue was credited with creating a “Kylie effect” that resulted in her fans realizing the value of frequent cancer check-ups.
The beloved author of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and numerous other young adult novels was diagnosed with breast cancer at 74. As one would expect, she wrote an honest, humor-filled essay about the experience. One part stated: “My dense, small breasts aged well. They stayed perky while other body parts sagged. I’d become quite fond of them. Still, the idea of mastectomy wasn’t a difficult emotional decision for me (again, these are very personal reactions and decisions). Maybe because my breasts have never defined my sexuality. Who knows?” Blume is now 76.
In June 2009, former ER star Maura Tierney was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had to leave her role for the then-new NBC series Parenthood after shooting the pilot (her role was recast with Lauren Graham), but made a full recovery.
“I was so, so scared of going to the doctor,” the 46-year-old actress told PARADE magazine. “I felt something, and my boyfriend at the time made me go. He said, ‘You’ve got to take care of this,’ because I was afraid. That’s one thing I will say: Don’t be afraid to go to the damn doctor. Just go!”
Best known for her acting roles in Family (1976–1980) and Family Ties (1982–1989), Meredith Baxter was diagnosed with stage 0 ductal carcinoma in situ breast cancer in 1998. Thirteen years later, she was diagnosed with invasive DCIS stage 2 that required “major excavation.” Now 67 and healthy, Baxter has created the Meredith Baxter Foundation for Breast Cancer Research to help fund prevention and research, including helping to provide free mammograms for low-income women.
Former First Lady Nancy Reagan had a modified radical mastectomy in 1987. This is where the breast and a portion of one underlying muscle are removed, instead of a less-extensive lumpectomy. In 1994, Mrs. Reagan provided her name and guidance in creating the Nancy Reagan Breast Center, which is devoted to the prevention, detection and treatment of breast disease to women throughout Ventura County. She is currently 93.
Grease star Olivia Newton-John, 66, battled breast cancer in 1992 and underwent a mastectomy. Newton-John’s “girl next door” fame — inspired by both the iconic film and her successful music career — helped her become an outspoken advocate for breast cancer awareness. She has since used much of her fortune to help women in her native Australia and worldwide, and in 2008 she raised funds to help build the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre in Melbourne, Australia.
The 1970s pop icon who played Foxy Brown, and later Jackie Brown in the Quentin Tarantino movie of the same name, was diagnosed with cancer in 1988. Not much information is available, though articles often say she credits non-traditional Chinese medicine along with traditional radiation and chemotherapy treatments and surgeries to overcome the disease.
TV host Sharon Osbourne, 61, chose a preventive double mastectomy in 2012 because she has a gene known to increase risk of breast cancer. While Osbourne didn’t reveal which gene that is, it’s suspected she has the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes like Angelina Jolie. Osbourne had colon cancer a decade prior and told HELLO! she wasn’t taking any chances this time. “As soon as I found out I had the breast cancer gene, I thought: ‘The odds are not in my favor.’ I’ve had cancer before and I didn’t want to live under that cloud: I decided to just take everything off, and had a double mastectomy. I didn’t even think of my breasts in a nostalgic way, I just wanted to be able to live my life without that fear all the time.”
This singer-songwriter, now 52, was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer in mid-February 2006. She had “minimally invasive” surgery later that month, followed by radiation therapy, and was able to skip chemotherapy because her cancer was caught so early. “I am a walking advertisement for early detection,” she said in October 2006. She’s become an activist in the search for a breast cancer cure.
Best known for selling the Thighmaster and playing Chrissy Snow on 1970s sitcom Three’s Company, Suzanne Somers was thrust back into the spotlight when she announced in 2001 that she’d had a lumpectomy and radiation, but declined to undergo chemotherapy in favor of alternative medicine treatments. In 2008, Somers was diagnosed with inoperable cancer by six doctors, but she learned a week later that she was misdiagnosed. During this time, she interviewed doctors about cancer treatments and these interviews became the basis of her controversial book, Knockout, about alternative treatments to chemotherapy.
Comedian Wanda Sykes had a double mastectomy after doctors found evidence of early-stage breast cancer in her left breast. She had ductal carcinoma in situ, also known as DCIS. “I was very, very lucky, because DCIS is basically stage zero cancer,” Sykes told Ellen DeGeneres in 2011. Now at 50, she’s an outspoken advocate for breast cancer awareness.
The famous French actress and sex symbol was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1984. Although she initially refused treatment, a friend convinced her that she could and should fight the disease. She’s now 80.
During the summer of 2008, the former Up All Night and Married with Children star was diagnosed with breast cancer. While it was only in one breast, she decided to undergo a double mastectomy because she’d tested positive for the BRCA-1 gene mutation, and her mother is a repeat breast cancer survivor. Applegate later founded Right Action for Women, a nonprofit that provides financial aid to women at high risk of breast cancer.
The famous feminist and publishing trailblazer was diagnosed in 1986. As she recalled to The New Yorker about her battle, “I’d been through five stages of burnout; I got breast cancer; the universe was telling me to slow down.” Steinem is now 80.
Actress Lynn Redgrave underwent a mastectomy in 2003 and penned a book about her experiences with cancer, Journal: A Mother and Daughter’s Recovery from Breast Cancer. Sadly, Redgrave passed away from the disease in 2010. She was 67.
The British actress and current Downton Abbey star was treated for breast cancer in 2008 during the filming of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth film in the franchise. She continued working, wearing her usual wig for her role as Professor Minerva McGonagall — even joking that being bald made it easier to wear it. She’s now 79.
Rocker Melissa Etheridge found a lump in her left breast while examining herself in the shower in 2004. She underwent a rigorous regimen of chemotherapy and radiation following a lumpectomy. Bald as a result of the treatment, she showed off her hair-free head during a Janis Joplin tribute at the 2005 Grammy Awards.
Now 53, Etheridge wrote the song “I Run for Life” about her battle against breast cancer.
When the Olympic skater’s cancer was detected in 1998, she told the Today show it felt “like somebody pulled the rug out from underneath me.” However, her lumpectomy and radiation treatment proved successful. Now 66, and a winemaker, proceeds from Fleming’s wine are donated to breast cancer research and awareness.
According to the National Cancer Institute, male breast cancer makes up less than one percent of all cases of breast cancer, which is one reason why we don’t hear about it that often. However, Richard Roundtree, star of the 1970s Shaft movies, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993. He went through a radical mastectomy and several rounds of chemo. This didn’t stop his career from continuing to flourish, with numerous roles in such movies as Seven and the Shaft remake, as well as TV series Desperate Housewives, Heroes, and more.
Robert Ray Roddy
Robert Ray “Rod” Roddy, perhaps best known for telling contestants to “Come on down!” on The Price Is Right, was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2001. In March 2003, Roddy was diagnosed with male breast cancer, underwent surgery and experienced major complications. He was unable to announce for The Price Is Right for the rest of that season and died on October 27, 2003 — less than a month after his 66th birthday. Due to his two diagnoses, Roddy became a spokesperson for early cancer detection in his last years.