Celebrities With Thyroid Problems

Disease of This Butterfly-Shaped Gland in Your Neck Is Common

A number of celebrities have thyroid conditions. How they came to be diagnosed, their treatment, and recovery may be a useful lesson that these conditions can happen to anyone.

1
Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey attends the European Premiere of 'A Wrinkle In Time'
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America's media mogul Oprah Winfrey announced in 2007 that she had thyroid disease. Winfrey discussed her thyroid problem in her magazine and on her television program, generating a great deal of controversy based on the metaphysical, non-medical approach she followed and endorsed. 

Overall, the ways in which she described her condition and eventually said she was free of thyroid problems were somewhat perplexing. Many people with thyroid conditions had hoped that she would educate the public about thyroid problems.

2
Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

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Former first lady, Senator, Secretary of State, and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton released her medical records in July of 2015, indicating that she was being treated for hypothyroidism.

Interestingly, Clinton's medical report indicated that her doctor hadn't prescribed levothyroxine, the most common hypothyroidism, but instead had prescribed a natural desiccated thyroid drug, Armour Thyroid. This preparation includes the thyroid hormones T4 and T3 and other cofactors and is not generally considered the "standard of care." 

3
Bernie Sanders

Portrait of Bernie Sanders Talking
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Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a contender for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, released his medical records in January of 2016. According to his physician, Sanders was in very good health and was being treated for hypothyroidism.

Senator Sanders' medical report indicated that he is being treated with levothyroxine for his underactive thyroid, which is the most common prescription thyroid hormone replacement drug. 

4
Gina Rodriguez

Gina Rodriguez arrives at the 90th Annual Academy Awards
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Gina Rodriguez, star of "Jane the Virgin," was diagnosed with hypothyroidism at age 19. Ten years later, she discovered that the cause of her hypothyroidism was Hashimoto's thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease of the thyroid gland, and the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the U.S.

In Hashimoto's thyroiditis, your immune system begins to produce antibodies that attack your thyroid gland. The gland may enlarge or it may shrink, and it can become unable to produce enough thyroid hormone. As an autoimmune condition, it's more common in women than men.  

Other stars with Hashimoto's thyroiditis include:

  • Kim Cattrall of "Sex and the City," was diagnosed with Hashimoto's thyroiditis in 1998.
  • Kim Alexis, a former model, has Hashimoto's thyroiditis and is hypothyroid. She had symptoms for 10 years before she was finally diagnosed. She says a healthy diet and exercise helped her get rid of the weight she gained after she became hypothyroid.
  • Gena Lee Nolin, who starred on the hit television series "Baywatch," went through fatigue, weight gain, and other issues in each of her pregnancies, and was told she had post-partum depression. Nolin was finally diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease and hypothyroidism in 2008. Nolin publicly announced her commitment to work to positively raise worldwide thyroid awareness in 2011.

5
Missy Elliott

Missy Elliott performs onstage
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In her 2011 VH1 "Inside the Music" profile and a People magazine interview, hip-hop star Missy Elliott publicly discussed her 2008 diagnosis with Graves' disease and hyperthyroidism. According to rapper Elliot, "It really hasn't slowed me down at all...I feel great."

Graves' disease is a condition in which the immune system creates antibodies that attack the thyroid gland, making it overactive (too much thyroid hormone is produced).

Symptoms and signs of Graves' disease may include weight loss, high heart rate, anxiety, insomnia, muscle weakness, and goiter.

Elliot received radioactive iodine (RAI) treatment for the condition.

Other celebrities with Grave's disease include:

  • Olympic medalist Gail Devers has Graves' disease. She almost had to abandon her athletic career due to her thyroid problem. Graves' disease caused her to lose excessive weight and muscle. She testified to a Congressional committee about her misdiagnosis and the cost of medical mistakes. She had radioactive iodine treatment to disable her thyroid and was put on thyroid hormone replacement therapy. She went on to win gold medals in the 100-meter dash at the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games.

  • Singer Toni Childs is in remission from Graves' disease. She dropped out of the music scene for nearly a decade to cope with her condition.

  • Former President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara Bush both were diagnosed with Graves' disease while he was in office.

6
Rod Stewart

Rod Stewart Performs In Milan

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Rocker Rod Stewart had surgery on his thyroid gland to remove a tumor, risking his singing voice. The growth was found during a routine CT scan and initially was thought to be a benign vocal nodule. A biopsy determined it to be a slow-growing papillary thyroid carcinoma, which is the most common type of thyroid cancer.

Stewart tells others the importance of health screening so tumors are caught early when they can be treated most successfully. He wrote about his experience in his autobiography. "Rod: The Autobiography of Rod Stewart."

Stewart noted that he was distressed during the six months after his thyroid operation, as he waited for his voice to return. He started vocal therapy and was able to sing again after nine months, but his voice was an octave lower. He continued his successful singing career.

7
Sofia Vergara

Sofia Vergara attends Lorraine Schwartz launch

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Actress Sofia Vergara successfully battled thyroid cancer in 2002, and has gone on to star as Gloria in the hit ABC comedy "Modern Family." Vergara told Parade magazine, "I've been through it all, so I don't take life's little dramas too seriously. I say, don't sweat the small stuff, because there's bigger stuff that can really make you sweat."

She had her thyroid removed and is reliant on thyroid hormones. She became a spokesperson for AbbVie and the thyroid drug Synthroid.

8
Katee Sackhoff

ctress Katee Sackhoff
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Actress Katee Sackhoff was diagnosed and treated for thyroid cancer in 2009. Sackhoff is known for playing Captain Kara "Starbuck" Thrace on "Battlestar Galactica," and Dana Walsh on "24."

Sackhoff told the New York Post: "Luckily, for me, I had one of the most curable forms of it. Once the surgery was done to remove my thyroid, I took nine months off."

In January of 2010, USA Weekend wrote: "She recently had a one-year check-up, which showed no signs of cancer, but not all of her scars have healed. 'It was the scariest thing I've ever been through,' she says. 'I'm still in therapy trying to get over it.'"

9
Roger Ebert

Film critic Roger Ebert

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The late film critic Roger Ebert struggled with thyroid cancer. Ebert, best known for his thumbs up/thumbs down ratings of films, actually had several bouts of cancer.

He first had a salivary gland tumor removed in 1987 and then papillary thyroid cancer was discovered in 2002.

Ebert was at greater risk of developing thyroid cancer because he had radiation treatments when he was younger. Although his cancer had a good prognosis, he developed salivary cancer again. He had further radiation treatments, surgery, and a tracheotomy, as the result of a complication. He died in 2013.

10
Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, President of Argentina

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, President of Argentina

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Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, President of Argentina, was diagnosed in December of 2011 with papillary thyroid carcinoma, the most common form of thyroid cancer. This type of cancer, when caught before it has spread, as it was in Fernandez's case, has a 5-year survival rate of nearly 100 percent after treatment. Treatment is typically ​surgery to remove the thyroid gland.

11
Brooke Burke-Charvet

Television host and model Brooke Burke

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Brooke Burke-Charvet, co-host of "Dancing With the Stars," announced in November of 2012 that she was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer. The 41-year-old mother of four revealed how a thyroid nodule had been detected, but she delayed follow-up evaluation.

After various tests and a fine needle aspiration biopsy, the diagnosis of thyroid cancer was confirmed. She had surgery to remove the thyroid and was relieved that surgery did not affect her voice. She will take thyroid hormone the rest of her life.

12
Angie Everhart

4th Hollywood Beauty Awards Angie Everhart

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Superstar model/actress Angie Everhart was diagnosed with a stage 1 thyroid cancer, had surgery, and is now cancer-free, and "feeling great on Armour Thyroid."

She was having shoulder pain and sleep problems so her doctor ordered an MRI and they found the cancerous mass in her thyroid.

More thyroid cancer survivors include:

  • Actress Catherine Bell ("JAG") is a thyroid cancer survivor and has also been a spokesperson for the Thyroid Cancer Survivor's Association.
  • Comedian and actor Joe Piscopo is a long-term thyroid cancer survivor. His thyroid cancer was diagnosed in the 1990s.
  • Billionaire Redskins owner and entertainment entrepreneur Dan Snyder has successfully battled thyroid cancer.

A Word From Verywell

If you are worried about any signs or symptoms related to your thyroid, whether it's a lump in your neck or a change in your weight, be sure to see a doctor for an evaluation.

The good news is that testing for thyroid disease is straightforward and simple—and early detection and treatment is in your best interest. 

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View Article Sources
  • American Cancer Society. (2016). Thyroid Cancer Survival Rates, by Type and Stage. 
  • Garber JR, Cobin RH, Garib H, et al. Clinical Practice Guidelines for Hypothyroidism in Adults: Cosponsored by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and the American Thyroid Association. Endocrine Practice. 2012;18(6):988–1028.