Michael Douglas has been open about his battle with cancer, sharing several personal and intimate details about how it developed and how his treatment was progressing, but the actor is now admitting he lied about a major aspect of his health battle.
Contrary to what he’d always said, Douglas did not have throat cancer after all. He had tongue cancer, but lied about it because of fears that the potential treatment could be disfiguring, resulting in harm to his career.
Douglas made the revelation to fellow actor Samuel L. Jackson in a segment that aired Friday as part of Male Cancer Awareness Week on “This Morning,” a British talk show.
Douglas, 69, said he was getting ready for a European tour to promote his movie “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” when he got the cancer diagnosis in 2010. He said doctors told him to lie about it.
“And I said, ‘Why’s that?’ And he said, ‘Well, if you really want to know why, if we do have to do surgery, it’s not going to be pretty, you know you lose part of your jaw and your tongue, and you know and all of that stuff.’ And I said ‘OK, sure,’” Douglas told Jackson.
Dr. Eric Genden, chairman of the Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery Department at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, told “Good Morning America” that the traditional approach for treating tongue cancer can have a significant impact on a patient’s looks.
“Most people, including producers and studios, may not be too happy to hire an actor or an actress with a tongue cancer,” Genden, who has not treated Douglas, said. “The more traditional approach does require a cut in the jaw and it can be very disfiguring.”
Douglas never needed surgery. After aggressive radiation and chemotherapy, Douglas says he now has a clean bill of health and a good prognosis. If he remains cancer-free for two years, there’s a 95 percent chance the caner won’t return, he told Jackson.
Douglas won an Emmy Award this year for his starring role in HBO’s Liberace bio-pic “Behind the Candelabra.”
He and his wife, actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, recently announced that they had separated, although the actor has said he’s working things out with her and the marriage was fine.