Surviving Breast Cancer: Affliction of the Stars

Stars from all walks of life face breast cancer.

ByABC News
February 18, 2009, 2:49 PM

Dec. 18, 2007— -- Singer Kylie Minogue beat breast cancer and her career is taking off again, but she may be planning another role soon -- as a mom.

The pop princess has denied reports that she plans to adopt an Aboriginal child but told Madison magazine that she wants a family of her own one day.

Minogue joins a group of celebrity women who have battled breast cancer and won.

The statistics can be overwhelming: Every 13 minutes, a woman dies from breast cancer. It is the leading cause of death for women between the ages of 15 and 54. But millions of women will battle the scary diagnosis and win, including famous faces from around the globe. From pop princesses to a former first lady, find out how these women fought breast cancer.

Declared free of cancer, Australian pop princess Kylie Minogue reportedly wants to start a family.

The 39-year-old singer was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005. She underwent a partial mastectomy and chemotherapy. In November 2007, Minogue told Glamour magazine that she had been through an emotional roller coaster with treatment for breast cancer.

"As far as body image goes, I've shrunk to nothing. I've ballooned; my body is not what it used to be, but it's the body I'm in."

She also said that she dreamed of having children. While Minogue's representative had no comment about her desire to get pregnant, Minogue told Glamour that starting a family is "still something I would love to happen."

Cancer experts say that her dream could become a reality.

"Breast cancer itself has no impact on getting pregnant," said Dr. Eric Winer, director of the breast oncology center at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. "The difficult issue for pregnancy is related to the treatment for breast cancer."

Chemotherapy may disrupt menstruation or decrease fertility. And even after chemotherapy, patients who have estrogen receptor positive cancer generally take Tamoxifen, a drug that interferes with the body's supply of estrogen. For some women, taking Tamoxifen may throw them into menopause at an early age.

Minogue, a Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter and occasional actress, is preparing to release her 10th album and launching a comeback tour. She rose to prominence in the late 1980s through her role on a soap opera, before she began her career as a pop artist. Minogue has sold more than 40 million records worldwide.

Two-time Grammy winner Melissa Etheridge faced a terrifying diagnosis and lived to tell the tale. One day during her tour in 2004, at the age of 43, Etheridge discovered a lump in her breast. She flew home to California, where she was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer.

"It was a rather large tumor but had only contaminated one lymph node," she told "Good Morning America" in 2005.

A wonderful ultrasound technician helped Etheridge get through the initial diagnosis. "She was a five-year survivor who'd had a full mastectomy," Etheridge told "Good Morning America," "and she opened her blouse and said, 'this is the worst that can happen.' "

At the 2005 Grammy Awards, she made a return to the stage and, although bald from chemotherapy, performed a tribute to Janis Joplin with the song "Piece of My Heart."

Now cancer-free, Etheridge recommends eating lots of fruits and vegetables, and donated the proceeds from "Piece of My Heart" sales to benefit breast cancer research.

In April 2006, Etheridge and partner Tammy Lynn Michaels announced that Michaels was pregnant with twins via an anonymous sperm donor. Michaels gave birth to a son, Miller Steven, and a daughter, Johnnie Rose, on Oct. 17, 2006.

Rocker Sheryl Crow has something to sing about: recovering from cancer. The nine-time Grammy winner was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer in February 2006, at age 44.

Crow underwent successful minimally invasive surgery for breast cancer just after being diagnosed. According to her Web site, her doctors confirmed her prognosis as excellent, and she received radiation treatment as a precaution. She is said to be in remission.

Crow was engaged to cyclist and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong, a seven-time winner of bicycling's Tour de France, who said he was "confident she will have a full and complete recovery and the world will be a better place for it." The couple broke up in early February 2006, just before her breast cancer diagnosis.

On May 12, 2007, Crow announced on her Web site that she had adopted a 2-week-old boy named Wyatt Steven. The baby makes an appearance on the song "Lullaby for Wyatt," which will be featured in the upcoming movie "Grace Is Gone."

Crow also wrote a foreword to the book "Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips," author Kris Carr's book that was based on her 2007 documentary film "Crazy Sexy Cancer."

Olivia Newton-John catapulted into fame in 1978 when she shimmied and sang beside John Travolta in "Grease." But she is also a well-known advocate for breast cancer causes. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, at the age of 43, the same weekend her father died.

After undergoing a mastectomy and partial breast reconstruction, Newton-John became increasingly candid about her battle with breast cancer and has become a proponent of the importance of early detection. Her personal victory against cancer led her to create the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Center in her hometown of Melbourne, Australia. The center will provide a comprehensive range of services and facilities for cancer treatment, education, training and research.

Newton-John finished her 36th album, "Stronger Than Before," in 2005. "I thought this was my opportunity to give something back and write songs that would give other women inspiration and hope," Newton-John told "Good Morning America."

In 2008, Newton-John will join Judy Brooks and Roy Walkenhorst as a co-host of the PBS series, Healing Quest.

When Sopranos star Edie Falco was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003, she decided to keep it a secret. The Emmy-winning actress underwent cancer treatment while working on the hit show. She was given a clean bill of health in August 2004, though the details of her treatment were never disclosed.

Falco has won three Emmys, two Golden Globes and three Screen Actors Guild Awards.

She appeared in the films "Trust," "Cop Land," "Random Hearts," "Freedomland," and John Sayles' "Sunshine State," for which she received the Los Angeles Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress.

In December 2004, after her cancer treatment was completed, Falco adopted a baby boy, whom she named Anderson , which was her mother's maiden name.

Nancy Reagan was first lady when she was diagnosed with breast cancer Oct. 5, 1987. In the public eye, she faced the illness head on.

Reagan made the controversial decision to have a modified mastectomy on her left breast in the fall of 1987, rather than a lumpectomy to remove only the lump in the breast tissue.

She said at the time that her choice was due in part because the lumpectomy probably would have required follow-up radiation treatment or chemotherapy -- and that would have interfered with her busy schedule as first lady.

Reagan remains active in politics, particularly as they relate to stem cell research. Beginning in 2004, she favored a progressive approach to funding research into stem cell use. She urged President Bush to support federally funded embryonic stem cell research in the hope that this science could lead to a cure for Alzheimer's disease, from which her husband, former President Ronald Reagan, suffered.

The first woman to serve on the Supreme Court, Sandra Day O'Connor has never shied away from tough assignments. In the fall of 1988, when she was 58 years old, O'Connor was diagnosed with breast cancer. The day before her surgery she fulfilled a speaking engagement at Washington and Lee University. After undergoing a mastectomy, she was back on the bench 10 days later --

In her first year on the court, O'Connor received more than 60,000 letters from the public, more than any other justice in history.

O'Connor was born in El Paso, Texas, on March 26, 1930. She married her law school sweetheart John Jay O'Connor III in 1952 and the couple has three sons -- Scott, Brian and Jay. She retired from the Supreme Court in 2005 to spend more time with her husband, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease.

Julia Child introduced America to the delights of French cooking. She survived breast cancer to die at age 91 of natural causes.

Born Julia McWilliams in 1912, Child attended college and worked for the OSS in Asia during World War II, where she met her husband. After marrying, they moved to Paris, which led her to cooking classes at the Cordon Bleu. Child had an appetite for learning as well as eating, one that soon developed into a desire to pass on the knowledge and skills she was acquiring. And in her late 30s, she found her calling. With two women who later co-wrote her first book, she started her own cooking school. Her class notes led to the cookbook, which eventually led to her famous television show, "The French Chef."

Child was candid about her mastectomy in 1974. She told Time magazine: "I would certainly not pussyfoot around about having a radical because it's not worth it."

Former Beatle wife and vegetarian cookbook author Linda McCartney battled breast cancer in 1995, when she was 53 years old.

Her condition soon worsened as the cancer spread to her liver. She reportedly had difficulties with the medications she had to take during treatment, as she opposed medical testing on animals.

Her husband, Paul McCartney, claimed that Linda had been kept in the dark about how the drugs she took may have been tested on animals. He told the BBC in 2006: "During the treatment, a nice answer is a nice answer and if they [the doctors] say, `It's OK to have this because we didn't test it on animals,' you are going to believe them."

Linda McCartney died April 17, 1998, at age 56 on the McCartney family ranch in Tucson, Ariz. Her husband and four children -- Heather, Mary, Stella and James -- were at her bedside, and they each took a turn in saying goodbye. Paul suggested that fans remember her by donating to breast-cancer research charities that do not support animal-testing, "or the best tribute: Go veggie."

Betty Ford had been first lady for two weeks when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, at the age of 56 in 1978. She had a mastectomy on her right breast.

Her openness about her illness raised the visibility of a disease that Americans had previously been reluctant to talk about. "When other women have this same operation, it doesn't make any headlines," she told Time magazine. "But the fact that I was the wife of the president put it in headlines and brought before the public this particular experience I was going through. It made a lot of women realize that it could happen to them. I'm sure I've saved at least one person -- maybe more."

Further amplifying the public awareness of breast cancer were reports that several weeks after Betty Ford's cancer surgery, Happy Rockefeller, the wife of then-vice president Nelson Rockefeller, also underwent a mastectomy. These two women did much to increase public knowledge of breast cancer and treatment for the disease.

Richard Roundtree, known for his manly ways as John Shaft in the 1971 film "Shaft," now has taken on a new role: male breast cancer advocate. In 1993, when Roundtree was 51, he found a lump in one breast and was diagnosed with breast cancer -- rare for a man.

Male breast cancer comprises only 1 percent of all breast cancer cases, which is not surprising, since men's bodies contain only about 1 percent of the breast tissue that women have. In 2007, there will be about 2,000 men diagnosed with breast cancer, compared with 178,000 women identified with the disease.

Roundtree had breast tissue removed and underwent chemotherapy, which made him constantly nauseated.

He doesn't hide his illness. He cherishes his survival and works passionately as a spokesman for both the Komen Foundation and a men's health care initiative called Know Your Score. Along with Magic Johnson, Roundtree is encouraging African-American men to see their doctors regularly.

Suzanne Somers decided to have controversial alternative therapy when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001. After undergoing conventional surgery and radiation therapy, she chose a therapy using mistletoe injections rather than pursue the recommended chemotherapy after her treatment.