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Famous Faces And Families Who Have Been Touched By Ovarian Cancer

The Huffington Post  |  By Posted: 03/22/2012 8:28 am Updated: 04/17/2012 1:32 pm

Oscar-winning actress Kathy Bates explained for the first time this week why she kept her 2004 ovarian cancer diagnosis a secret. She first revealed she had been diagnosed in 2009, but kept her experiences with treatment under wraps until divulging more details in an interview with Anderson Cooper.

"I was contracted to go into a movie at that time," she said. "My doctors at the time, they had to get insurance approval and all of that so I was very quiet about it and had to go back to work right away."

The American Cancer Society estimates that 22,280 U.S. women receive an ovarian cancer diagnosis each year, and about 15,500 will die from ovarian cancer. It's the ninth most common cancer among women, but fifth in cancer deaths among women.

Ovarian cancer is most common in women over age 55, according to the National Cancer Institute, and women who have never been pregnant are at an increased risk. Women with a family history of ovarian, breast, uterus or colorectal cancer also have a higher chance of developing the disease.

Called the "silent killer" for its often misdiagnosed or overlooked symptoms, ovarian cancer has many famous faces as allies in raising awareness for the cause. Click through the slideshow below to see more celebs who fought the disease, stars who supported sick family members and other A-listers who have gotten involved.

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  • Shannon Miller

    The most decorated American Olympic gymnast has said she <a href="" target="_hplink">almost delayed getting checked</a> by her gynecologist in February of 2011, on the day her doctor found a baseball-sized tumor on one of her ovaries. It turned out to be a germ cell malignancy, a form of ovarian cancer <a href="" target="_hplink">more common in teenagers and women under 30</a>, according to ESPN. After having the ovary and cyst removed, Miller underwent nine weeks of chemotherapy. She told ABC in the video above that she had no symptoms, which is why she's particularly passionate about raising awareness about early detection. She has detailed her treatment on her health and wellness website, <a href="" target="_hplink">Shannon Miller Lifestyle</a>.

  • Coretta Scott King

    After U.S. doctors deemed her <a href="" target="_hplink">ovarian cancer terminal</a>, the civil rights pioneer's family and friends said King sought out alternative treatment in Mexico, where she <a href=",,1154996,00.html" target="_hplink">passed away at the age of 78</a>, in 2006.

  • Gilda Radner

    The comedic actress, famous for her 1975 to 1980 stint on "Saturday Night Live", died in 1989 from ovarian cancer. She handled the disease as only a comedian could: with humor. <a href=",,20115242,00.html" target="_hplink">As <em>People</em> wrote</a>: <blockquote>Even as she was dying, Gilda Radner went for laughs. At home, Gene Wilder remembers, she enacted her infamous "Saturday Night" character Roseanne Roseannadanna, shouting at the cancer cells invading her body, "Hey, what are you trying to do in here? Make me sick?"</blockquote> Her husband, actor Gene Wilder, became active in raising awareness after her death for both early detection and the need for easily accessible support systems for cancer patients, through the organization named for his wife, <a href="" target="_hplink">Gilda's Club</a>.

  • Evelyn Lauder

    A champion of breast cancer awareness, Lauder, daughter-in-law of Estee Lauder, created the Pink Ribbon campaign and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, after her own diagnosis of breast cancer in 1989. While breast and ovarian cancers have been linked to the same hereditary gene, in 2007, Lauder <a href="" target="_hplink">developed ovarian cancer unrelated to her breast cancer</a>, a spokeswoman for the Estee Lauder Companies told the <em>New York Times</em>. She died from the disease in November of 2011, at 75.

  • Jessica Tandy

    Famous for playing Blanche Dubois on Broadway and the title role in "Driving Miss Daisy," the actress <a href="" target="_hplink">passed away in 1994</a> at age 85 from ovarian cancer, <a href="" target="_hplink">according to her husband, actor Hume Cronyn</a>. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="" target="_hplink">Alan Light</a></em>

  • Diem Brown

    While her acting credentials don't hold a candle to Broadway, a younger generation has a famous face of ovarian cancer all their own in reality star Diem Brown, of MTV's "The Real World" fame. She was <a href="" target="_hplink">diagnosed at age 24 with stage II ovarian cancer</a>, and had one ovary, several lymph nodes and part of one of her fallopian tubes removed, <em>Glamour</em> reported. "I had no idea why this was happening to me," she told <em>Glamour</em> of finding out she was sick. "I'm a healthy girl: I'm a vegetarian; I don't smoke; I barely drink. I kept thinking, I have so much to do; I'm not ready to die." While the survival rate is much lower for women whose ovarian cancer is diagnosed in advanced stages, Brown is currently healthy, having gone on to tackle additional TV challenges with her Real World and Road Rules colleagues.

  • Patrick Dempsey

    Ovarian cancer comes back in about 70 percent of women diagnosed. That's what happened to Patrick Dempsey's mother, Amanda, in 1999. The actor helped his mother through chemotherapy then, as well as in 1996 when her disease was first caught, at stage IV. <a href="" target="_hplink">Survival rates aren't promising</a> for most advanced cases, but, according to WebMD, Amanda "seems to have beaten those odds." Dempsey went on to found <a href="" target="_hplink">The Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing</a>, dedicated to providing education, support and wellness services, according to its website.

  • Angelina Jolie

    The actress's mother, Marcheline Bertrand, died in January of 2007 at age 56, after a <a href=",,20062643,00.html" target="_hplink">7-and-a-half-year battle with ovarian cancer</a>. "There are no words to express what an amazing woman and mother she was," Jolie and brother James Haven told <em>People</em> in a statement. "She was our best friend."

  • Kyle MacLachlan

    The "Desperate Housewives" and "Sex and the City" actor's mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the early 1980s, he told <em>People</em>, and died from it in 1986. "I was devastated by it and wanted to do something to help," he said. He teamed up with Callaway Golf Foundation and the Entertainment Industry Foundation in 2008 to <a href=",,20423321,00.html" target="_hplink">film a PSA</a> aimed not just at women, but men, too. "Every man has a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, friends," he said. "It might encourage husbands to ... take care of the women in our lives."

  • Ray Romano

    The actor's cousin Linda is an <a href="" target="_hplink">ovarian cancer survivor</a> and director of <a href="" target="_hplink">Survivors Teaching Students</a>, a program aimed at teaching medical students about the symptoms of ovarian cancer. He filmed this short video <a href="" target="_hplink">asking viewers for their support</a> in raising awareness for the disease.

  • Eva Longoria

    Like "Desperate Housewives" co-star MacLaughlan, Longoria has also teamed up with the Entertainment Industry Foundation and the Callaway Golf Foundation to raise awareness about ovarian cancer. She is also a <a href="" target="_hplink">supporter of the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund</a>, the leading independent, non-profit organization for advancing research, raising awareness and finding a cure for ovarian cancer in the U.S.

  • Kelly Ripa

    The TV personality, who is featured on TV ads for Electrolux, has helped <a href="" target="_hplink">raise awareness of ovarian cancer</a>. For each participant in various initiatives, <a href="" target="_hplink">Electrolux donates $1 to the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation</a>.

  • Janet Jackson

    In the December 2009 issue of <em>InStyle</em>, the singer was photographed wearing the Cartier Love Charity bracelet. For each bracelet sold, Cartier <a href=",,20205734_20207002_20470084,00.html" target="_hplink">donated $200 to the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance</a>. Jackson was inspired to support the foundation <a href="" target="_hplink">on behalf of a friend</a> who had been diagnosed with the disease at age 34. "She's been in remission for nine years, but just to think of the possibility of losing her was terrible," Jackson told the magazine. Bracelet sales raised over $100,000 for the cause, she added.

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CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this article stated that ovarian cancer is called the "silent killer" because of a lack of symptoms. Ovarian cancer does have symptoms, but they are often misdiagnosed or overlooked because of their similarity to the symptoms of many more common health conditions in women.