11 Celebrities With Thyroid Disease

Stars share their challenges and triumphs

A number of celebrities both in the arts and political arena have thyroid conditions. How they came to be diagnosed and treated can be a useful lesson for anyone faced with a thyroid problem, providing insights into treatment options and the common challenges to be faced.

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Hillary Clinton

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

Interestingly, Clinton's report revealed that her doctor hadn't prescribed levothyroxine, the recommended treatment for hypothyroidism, but instead used a natural desiccated thyroid (NDT) called Armour Thyroid.

Armour Thyroid is an oral preparation that includes dried T4 and T3 hormones derived from cows or pigs. While used for generations for the treatment of hypothyroid disease, NDT is not considered the standard of care. 

Despite that the fact the controversial 2014 Hypothyroidism Guidelines insist that NDT drugs should not be used in place of levothyroxine, a growing number of endocrinologists are prescribing Armour Thyroid and other NDT alternatives with apparent success.

Oprah Winfrey

'Watching Oprah: The Oprah Winfrey Show And American Culture' Opening Reception
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America's media mogul Oprah Winfrey announced in 2007 that she had hypothyroidism. Winfrey discussed her thyroid problem in her magazine O and on her television program, generating a great deal of controversy based on the metaphysical, non-medical approach she followed and endorsed. 

The ways in which Winfrey described her condition, eventually declaring she was "free" of thyroid problems, were somewhat perplexing. Many people with thyroid conditions had hoped that she would better educate the public about the disease and the standard approaches to care.

Sen. 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 actively being treated for hypothyroidism.

Sen. Sanders' medical report indicated that he is being treated with levothyroxine, the synthetic thyroid hormone most commonly prescribed for hormone replacement therapy.

Gina Rodriguez

Gina Rodriguez
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Gina Rodriguez, star of TV's "Jane the Virgin," was diagnosed with hypothyroidism at age 19. Ten years later, Rodriquez discovered that the cause of her condition was Hashimoto's thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease of the thyroid gland and the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States.

With Hashimoto's thyroiditis, the immune system begins to produce antibodies that attack your thyroid gland. The gland may enlarge or shrink, both of which can interfere with the production of thyroid hormones. As with other autoimmune disorders, Hashimoto's is more common in women than men.  

Among the other stars diagnosed with Hashimoto's thyroiditis:

  • Kim Cattrall of TV's "Sex and the City" was diagnosed with Hashimoto's thyroiditis in 1998.
  • Kim Alexis, a former supermodel, also has Hashimoto's thyroiditis and hypothyroidism. She had symptoms for 10 years before she was finally diagnosed. A healthy diet and exercise helped Alexis get rid of the weight she gained after she became hypothyroid.
  • Gena Lee Nolin, star of the hit TV series "Baywatch," experienced fatigue and weight gain in each of her pregnancies and was told she simply had post-partum depression. Nolin was finally diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease and hypothyroidism in 2008. She publicly announced her commitment to raising thyroid disease awareness in 2011.

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 being diagnosed with Graves' disease and hyperthyroidism in 2008.

Graves' disease is a condition in which the immune system creates antibodies that attack the thyroid gland, triggering the overproduction of thyroid hormone. Symptoms of Graves' disease include weight loss, rapid heart rate, anxiety, insomnia, muscle weakness, and goiter.

Elliot received radioactive iodine (RAI) treatment for her condition. According to the rap star: "The disease really hasn't slowed me down at all...I feel great."

Other celebrities with Grave's disease include:

  • Former President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara Bush both were diagnosed with Graves' disease while he was in office.
  • Olympic medalist Gail Devers almost had to abandon her athletic career due to Graves' disease as a result of the excessive weight and muscle loss. She testified to a Congressional committee about her misdiagnosis and the cost of medical mistakes. Devers received RAI treatment to disable her thyroid gland and was placed on thyroid hormone replacement therapy thereafter. The athlete 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.

Rod Stewart

Rod Stewart Performs In Milan

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Rocker Rod Stewart had surgery on his thyroid gland to remove a tumor, a procedure that placed his singing voice at risk. The growth was found during a routine computed tomography (CT) scan and initially was thought to be a benign nodule. A biopsy later revealed it to be a slow-growing papillary thyroid carcinoma, the most common form of thyroid cancer.

In his autobiography. "Rod: The Autobiography of Rod Stewart," the rock star described the distress he felt the first six months following his surgery as he waited for his voice to return.

Stewart started vocal therapy as part of his rehabilitation and was able to sing again after nine months, though in a voice that was an octave lower. He continues his successful singing career today.

Sofia Vergara

Sofia Vergara

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Actress Sofia Vergara successfully battled thyroid cancer in 2002 and has gone on to star in the hit TV comedy series "Modern Family." In recounting the experience, 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."

Vergara had her thyroid removed as part of the standard treatment and is reliant on thyroid hormones to maintain normal function. In 2013, the star became the spokesperson for the thyroid drug Synthroid (levothyroxine).

Roger Ebert

Film critic Roger Ebert

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The late film critic Roger Ebert struggled with thyroid cancer through much of his life. Ebert, best known for his film review TV show with Gene Siskel, had several bouts of cancer. In 1987, he had a salivary gland tumor removed and then was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer in 2002.

Ebert was at greater risk of developing thyroid cancer because he had undergone radiation treatments when he was younger. Although his thyroid cancer had a relatively good prognosis, Ebert experienced a relapse of salivary cancer a few years later, requiring surgery, radiation, and a tracheotomy.

Ebert died of related complications in 2013.

Angie Everhart

4th Hollywood Beauty Awards Angie Everhart

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Model/actress Angie Everhart was diagnosed with early stage 1 thyroid cancer in 2013 and, after undergoing surgery, is now cancer-free. As with Clinton, Everhart maintains her hormone levels with Armour Thyroid.

Before her diagnosis, Everhart was having shoulder pain and sleep problems, so her doctor ordered a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan and found a cancerous mass in her thyroid.

Among the other celebrities who survived thyroid cancer:

  • Actress Catherine Bell ("JAG") is a thyroid cancer survivor and also 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 also successfully battled thyroid cancer.

Katee Sackhoff

ctress Katee Sackhoff
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Actress Katee Sackhoff was diagnosed and treated for thyroid cancer in 2009. Sackhoff, known her roles on TV's "Battlestar Galactica" and "24," 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 2011, a one-year check-up confirmed that there were no signs of cancer. However, not all of Sackhoff's scars were immediately healed. In an interview, Sackhoff stated: "It was the scariest thing I've ever been through... I'm still in therapy trying to get over it."

Brooke Burke-Charvet

Television host and model Brooke Burke

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

After various tests and a fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy, the diagnosis of thyroid cancer was finally confirmed. Burke-Charvet had surgery to remove the thyroid gland and stated that she was relieved that surgery did not affect her voice.

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