13 Celebrities Who Died of Cancer

The brave struggles of famous people who've died of cancer

When a celebrity is diagnosed with or dies from cancer, it tends to make the news. This, of course, can lead to a lot of things, but one important one is an often increased awareness about various types of cancer and the importance of knowing their symptoms and getting screened, if appropriate.

These individuals' deaths undoubtedly made many think about their own overall health and cancer risk.

Patrick Swayze

Los Angeles Premiere of Chicago - The Musical

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(August 18, 1952 to September 14, 2009)

Best known for his roles in "Ghost" and "Dirty Dancing," Patrick Swayze proved himself a true fighter by working full time while undergoing intense chemotherapy to treat pancreatic cancer.

Swayze's cancer treatment included an experimental drug called vatalanib, which aims to inhibit the enzyme activity that promotes cancer cell growth and proliferation.

Swayze was determined not to let cancer change him. Somehow he managed to live almost two years with a disease that is usually fatal within months of diagnosis.

Paul Newman

Paul Newman

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(January 26, 1925 to September 26, 2008)

When pictures began to surface in 2008 of a fragile-looking Paul Newman, the media began to speculate that the Hollywood icon was ill. His publicist vehemently squashed the rumors, issuing statements claiming that the actor was in perfectly good health.

Today, we know that Paul Newman had been secretly battling lung cancer. Newman was a private man in life, so it comes as no surprise that he would want to spend his last days away from the glare of the media spotlight.

In September 2008, he lost his battle with cancer at his farmhouse in Connecticut with his wife, Joanne Woodward, at his side.

Peter Jennings

Journalist Peter Jennings

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(July 29, 1938 to August 7, 2005)

The public was shocked in 2006 when Peter Jennings, the legendary ABC broadcaster, announced in a prerecorded message that he had lung cancer and would be starting chemotherapy within days. Although he assured his audience that he would still broadcast during treatment, that never happened. Jennings’ videotaped message would ultimately be his last. He died just a few months later.

The news that chemotherapy would be Jennings' first course of treatment was a pretty clear indication that the disease was in an advanced stage. A former smoker who quit in 1988, Jennings's decades-old habit began at the age of 13, during a time when the dangers of smoking weren't clear.

Farrah Fawcett

Farrah Fawcett At Charity Tennis Tournament

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(February 2, 1947 to June 25, 2009)

In September 2006, "Charlie's Angels" star Farrah Fawcett began her long journey with anal cancer, a rare disease that affects only around 5,000 people in the United States each year. Anal cancer is diagnosed more often in women than in men and is associated with the human papillomavirus (HPV).

After completing radiation and chemotherapy, the actress was reportedly in good spirits and optimistic about her future. Just five months after her initial diagnosis, Fawcett was declared cancer-free.

Unfortunately, during a routine checkup in May 2007, a malignant polyp was found—a heartrending revelation, given that that only 15 percent of those treated for anal cancer experience a recurrence. On June 25, 2009, Farrah's long battle with cancer ended. She died at a Santa Monica hospital with her longtime love, Ryan O'Neill, by her side.

Ted Kennedy

Senator Ted Kennedy

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(February 22, 1932 to August 25, 2009)

In 2008, Senator Ted Kennedy was rushed to the hospital. It was initially believed that he had suffered a stroke, but medical tests revealed he, in fact, had a brain tumor. It was soon disclosed that Kennedy was suffering from a malignant glioma in the left parietal lobe of his brain.

Despite reports that the tumor was inoperable, Kennedy underwent surgery at Duke University Medical Center, home of a renowned brain tumor center. Aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatments followed but left him vulnerable to seizures. A year later, Kennedy succumbed to his battle with cancer at his home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts.

Michael Crichton

Michael Crichton Signs 'Prey'

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(October 23, 1942 to November 4, 2008)

Best known for bestselling novels such as "The Andromeda Strain" and "Jurassic Park," Michael Crichton's work successfully transitioned to the silver screen.

Even after Hollywood came calling, snapping up bestseller after bestseller for screen adaptation, Crichton remained a staunchly private person. So much so, in fact, that the public was not aware that the novelist had been battling cancer up until the time of his death.

His passing was "unexpected," Crichton's brother told the press. The author had been undergoing treatment for lymphoma diagnosed early in 2008.

Sydney Pollack

'The Interpreter' Press Conference with Nicole Kidman and Sydney Pollack

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(July 1, 1934 to May 26, 2008)

In 2007, the National Enquirer brashly announced that Academy Award-winning director Sydney Pollack was suffering from stomach cancer. Pollack did not make an official statement concerning his health. It was only after his death in May 2008 that a representative confirmed the filmmaker had been diagnosed with cancer, the origin of which doctors couldn't determine.

Tony Snow

Tony Snow

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(June 1, 1955 to July 12, 2008)

Former President George W. Bush Press Secretary Tony Snow was no stranger to cancer. Snow had first battled colon cancer in 2005 after years of suffering from ulcerative colitis, a condition that can greatly increase a person's risk of developing colorectal malignancies.

Immediately following Snow's diagnosis, surgery was performed to remove his colon, followed by a six-month course of chemotherapy. Soon after, his cancer was declared to be in remission.

Sadly, in 2007, while serving as White House press secretary, Snow suffered a recurrence, ultimately leading to his death in 2008 at age 53.

William Rehnquist

American jurist William Rehnquist

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(October 1, 1924 to September 3, 2005)

Former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Rehnquist was an unflaggingly dedicated public servant, something he proved after being diagnosed with thyroid cancer in October of 2004. During his yearlong battle with the disease, he received both chemotherapy and radiation while continuing to actively serve as chief justice.

Rehnquist lost his battle to cancer in September of 2005 at his home in Arlington, Virginia.

Eartha Kitt

American singer and actress Eartha Kitt

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(January 17, 1927 to December 25, 2008)

Legendary actress and singer Eartha Kitt began her journey with colon cancer in 2006, after a visit with the doctor for carpal tunnel revealed she was anemic (a symptom people with cancer often experience). Further testing revealed she in fact had colon cancer.

She was successfully treated but, in 2007, had a recurrence that would ultimately lead to her death. Kitt died from the disease on Christmas Day in 2008 at age 81.

Kitt continued to work up until the time of her passing. She is best remembered for her holiday hit, "Santa Baby," and for her role as Catwoman in the "Batman" television series.

Bob Denver

Actor Bob Denver

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(January 9, 1935 to September 2, 2005)

Bob Denver is best remembered for his starring role in the hit 1960s television series "Gilligan's Island." His career extended to five decades, but to most fans, he will always be remembered as the bumbling and endearing Gilligan.

Few details have been publicly released about Denver's battle with throat cancer, a disease to which he eventually succumbed in 2005. He died surrounded by his wife and children at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina.

Jerry Orbach

Actor Jerry Orbach

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(October 20, 1935 to December 28, 2004)

Hollywood veteran and "Law and Order" star Jerry Orbach had been diagnosed with prostate cancer for 10 years before dying of the disease in 2004. The star was undergoing treatment at New York City's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He died on December 28 at the age of 69.

Anne Bancroft

Anne Bancroft

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(September 17, 1931 to June 6, 2005)

Details about actress Anne Bancroft's battle with uterine cancer were largely kept private, but close friends reported that she had suffered from the disease for some time. The Oscar-winning star of "The Graduate" died in 2005 at age 73, leaving behind husband Mel Brooks.

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