Celebrities with Cancer: Why Do Some Go Public — and Others Don’t?

Chadwick Boseman, a popular actor, passed away from colon cancer in the summer of 2020 at 43. His legendary cinematic career and kind, giving nature are part of his legacy. And he shocked millions of followers all around the globe by not disclosing that he had stage 4 cancer or any disease at all. When Boseman was first diagnosed with cancer in 2016, he was already in stage 3. In 2018, the illness returned. He told no one else except for his immediate family and a few trusted friends.

Like many others who admired his work and are saddened by his passing, we have pondered why Boseman kept the details of his sickness private. Under normal conditions, high-profile films might be difficult to insure on a budget. We hypothesized that he was worried that no one would employ him if they knew about his sickness. Many sources said that up to his death, Boseman thought he still had many years to live. It was even said that he was attempting to put on the required weight before starting production on the sequel to his most successful picture, Black Panther 2.

Who and Why Did Famous People Reveal Their Cancer Battles?

The diagnoses given to famous people tend to be divided. Some, like Boseman, opt to make an immediate public announcement, while others want to keep their good news to themselves. Sometimes they do, as Boseman did, and sometimes they don't or never have the opportunity to, like in this instance.

Ben Stiller

Actor Ben Stiller, 56, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2012 and had treatment in 2014; but did not speak publicly about his experience until 2014. A blood test called the prostate-specific antigen test (PSA) saved his life, he said, after he was diagnosed with cancer in his late forties and subsequently treated and declared cancer-free. Stiller stated in an online article, "This is a delicate topic, and an emerging one," noting that exam opinions vary. Yet, in our imperfect environment, early detection is the greatest approach to deciding how to treat even the worst of cancers.

Mr Hugh Jackman

Several diagnoses of basal cell carcinoma, a malignant type of skin cancer, have been made for the actor who played Wolverine. In August of last year, he had the most recent biopsy done. In an Instagram post, he said that medical professionals had seen something "a bit odd" and had taken a sample to have it examined. I'll consider this piece a success if it prompts even one more person to schedule an appointment with a dermatologist.

A. J. Trebek

As of March 2019, Jeopardy!'s longtime host, Alex Trebek, has been diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer. He told CBS's Jane Pauley that it began with an ache in his gut that wouldn't go away. He suffered through the side effects of his chemo treatments while maintaining his job schedule. On November 8th, 2020, Trebek died at his home from the effects of his illness.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

In 2009, the Supreme Court justice's doctors confirmed their worst fears: he had pancreatic cancer. Her pancreas and spleen were taken out not long after that. After being diagnosed with colon cancer in 1999, Ginsburg underwent surgery and chemotherapy. She was the first woman to lay in state in the United States Capitol after her death from pancreatic cancer on September 18, 2020.

Steve Jobs

The larger-than-life CEO of Apple was diagnosed with a rare neuroendocrine tumour in 2003. While it began in his pancreas, this was not true pancreatic cancer. The cancer had progressed to his liver despite the surgeons' efforts to eradicate it. Jobs resigned as Apple's CEO in August 2011, and he died on October 5 of that year due to complications from pancreatic cancer.

John Hurt

Famous for his parts in films like "Alien" and "The Elephant Man," this English actor was a household name. He announced he had stage 1 pancreatic cancer in 2015. Even after learning about his condition, he continued to work. Afterwards, he remarked, "I am getting therapy and am more than hopeful about a positive conclusion." In January 2017, at age 77, Hurt died away.

Sharon Jones

As a result of her 2002 album Dap-Dippin' With Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, a mashup of vintage '60s-style soul, she gained widespread recognition. Then came the fame, the wealth, and the subsequent five albums. In 2013, medical professionals made the first diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. To combat it, doctors removed a chunk of her pancreas and her whole gallbladder. In retrospect, it's hardly surprising that 9 months later, cancer returned. Jones, who had just turned 60, passed away from the illness in November 2016.

Khloé Kardashian

Khloe Kardashian, an American reality TV star and businesswoman, has had many biopsies performed on her skin over the years, and unfortunately, one of them was malignant. She discussed the incident publicly in 2016 to raise awareness about the need to monitor moles. At 37 years old, the reality TV personality said she had surgically removed eight inches of skin.

Sofia Vergara

At 28, Colombian actress Sofia Vergara was diagnosed with thyroid cancer when a doctor discovered a tumor in her neck during a checkup. Even though it was detected early and she responded well to therapy, it took the Modern Family actress, now 49 years old, 11 years to talk about her cancer scare in the media. Being diagnosed with cancer is no laughing matter. Why she chose silence: "You don't want to deal with anything else when you're going through it," she said to Health.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a six-time NBA champion, published an editorial for WebMD in 2020 on healthcare injustices and stated that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. 'My life is in danger,' he said. Besides being tall and black, I'm 73 years old and experiencing the regular irritating aches and pains of aging. He continues by enumerating the illnesses to which he is predisposed due to his stature and ethnic background. I've had prostate cancer, leukemia, and heart bypass surgery, all consistent with these probabilistic expectations.


A celebrity willing to be vulnerable with their fan base may do a lot of good for others going through tough times, whether they intend to inspire them or not. That's precisely what these great people did; they shared their struggles with cancer with the world even though it was likely the worst thing that had ever happened to them.

Updated on: 04-Apr-2023


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