Cynthia Nixon (diagnosed 2006 at 40)
At first, Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon was hesitant to reveal that a cancerous tumor had been discovered in her right breast during a routine mammogram. Nixon, best known for playing the responsible Miranda Hobbes, didn't want her condition to become public during her treatment. "I didn't want paparazzi at the hospital, that kind of thing," Nixon told the New York Daily News after treating her cancer with a lumpectomy and radiation. But Nixon, whose mother also survived breast cancer, decided to tell her story when she realized it might serve as an inspiration for other women at risk.
Sheryl Crow (diagnosed 2006 at 44)
"I am a walking advertisement for early detection," Sheryl Crow said in October 2006 about catching suspicious calcifications in both of her breasts on a routine mammogram. The rocker immediately postponed a tour, went into surgery, and had seven weeks of radiation, supplemented with acupuncture and herbal teas. Crowwhose engagement to cyclist Lance Armstrong ended around the time she was diagnosedwas able to skip chemotherapy because her cancer was caught so early. In March 2007, Crow (who has no close family history of breast cancer) petitioned Congress to fund research into possible links between breast cancer and environmental factors.
Edie Falco (diagnosed 2003 at 40)
When Sopranos star Edie Falco was diagnosed with breast cancer, she kept it almost completely secret; she barely told a soul on the set of the six-season HBO hit series on which she played mob wife Carmela Soprano. Falco quietly went into treatment and emerged cancer-freeand with shorter hairin 2004.
She says she chose to stay mum because she didn't want any fuss or pity. "It was very important for me to keep my diagnosis under the radar... because well-meaning people would have driven me crazy asking, 'How are you feeling?'" Falco told Health. Instead, she "bucked up, put on my Carmela fingernails, and was ready to work."
Kylie Minogue (diagnosed 2005 at 36)
A misdiagnosis almost lost Australian pop star Kylie Minogue her chance to fightand defeatbreast cancer. It wasn't until she decided to go in for a second round of tests that doctors found the lump in her left breast. A partial mastectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation followed.
The singer has emerged from her ordeal with a plea that women should trust their gut more when they go to the doctor. "Just because someone is in a white coat and using big medical instruments doesn't necessarily mean they’re right," she told Ellen DeGeneres in 2007.
Photo: Getty Images
Elizabeth Edwards (diagnosed 2004 at 55)
Elizabeth Edwardsthe estranged wife of former presidential candidate John Edwards, mother of three, and a former bankruptcy attorneyput off mammograms for four years. Then in 2004 she discovered a large lump in her right breast that turned out to be cancerous.
After chemotherapy, surgery and radiation, Edwards appeared at first to be cancer-free. But in 2007, doctors discovered the cancer had spread to one of her ribs, hip bones, and lungs. She lost her battle with cancer in 2010, at the age of 61.
Robin Roberts (diagnosed 2007 at 46)
Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts had made a name for herself interviewing A-list athletes, actors, and other newsworthy personalities, but on July 31, 2007, she turned the camera on herself to announce she'd been diagnosed with breast cancer.
"I did a self breast exam and found something that women everywhere fear: I found a lump," she said in a message posted online the day of her surgery. Roberts completed eight chemotherapy treatments, followed by radiation. In 2012, she underwent a bone marrow transplant for MDS, or myelodysplastic syndrome.
Jaclyn Smith (diagnosed 2002 at 56)
Seventies icon and ex-model Jaclyn Smith may be best remembered as Kelly Garrett, one of three sexy private investigators in the television series Charlie’s Angels, but lately she's in hot pursuit of breast cancer instead of hardened criminals.
In 2002, the fashion and home furnishings entrepreneur and host of the Bravo show Shear Genius discovered a lump in one of her breasts during a routine checkup. She had a lumpectomy and radiation, and later became active with groups such as Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Smith also speaks publicly about the recognizing breast cancer risk factors as part of the Strength in Knowing program.
Christina Applegate (diagnosed 2008 at 36)
For most women, the idea of parting with one breast, let alone two, is unimaginable. But that's what actress Christina Applegate opted to do after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in the summer of 2008, even though cancer was found in only one breast.
Applegatewho tested positive for the BRCA-1 gene mutation and whose mother is a repeat breast cancer survivorsaid she chose mastectomy to reduce the chance that the cancer could spread or come back. Applegate later founded Right Action for Women, a nonprofit that provides financial aid to women at high risk of breast cancer.
Melissa Etheridge (diagnosed 2004 at 43)
Rocker Melissa Etheridge famously performed bald during a Janis Joplin tribute at the 2005 Grammys after completing a rigorous regimen of chemotherapy and radiation following a lumpectomy. She had found a lump in her left breast the year before while examining herself in the shower and was inspired to write the song “I Run for Life” about the battle against breast cancer.
Etheridge has lost her father, aunt, and grandmother to cancer, and describes her own experience as leading to a "spiritual awakening." "It taught me that I shouldn't do anything that I don't love completely," she said in September 2007.
Diahann Carroll (diagnosed 1998 at 63)
For Grey's Anatomy scene-stealer Diahann Carroll, who played the mother of Dr. Preston Burke on the TV hospital drama, breast cancer came at a very common age for U.S. womenher early 60s. But Carroll (who in 1968 became the first African-American actress to star in her own television series,Julia had no family history of the disease and was caught by surprise. She underwent a lumpectomy and 36 radiation treatments and then went on the road to urge more postmenopausal women to get tested. In 2008 she released the tell-all book, The Legs Are the Last to Go: Aging, Acting, Marrying & Other Things I Learned the Hard Way ($10; amazon.com).