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Some of these singers diagnosed with cancer came out on top, and some heroically fought but ultimately lost the battle.
No matter the story, cancer is one disease that doesn’t discriminate against its victims and requires a fight like no other to overcome and handle with grace, just as these top singers have done.
Here are 17 singers who have been diagnosed with cancer.
1. Olivia Newton-John
Australian singer Oliva Newton-John, best known for her role as Sandy in the hit musical Grease, spent decades fighting breast cancer. Initially diagnosed in 1992, it was found early, and after nine months of treatment, including chemotherapy and a breast reduction following a partial mastectomy, was cancer free. The disease returned in 2013, but again, she overcame it. Then, in May 2017, Newton-John announced that her cancer had returned a third time and metastasized to her bones and lower back, the latter of which was initially misdiagnosed as sciatica.
Newton-John lost the third battle, passing away on Aug. 8, 2022, at 73. Ever since her fans have continuously remained “Hopelessly Devoted” to keeping her legacy alive.
2. Joey Feek
Joey Feek and her husband, Rory, better known as Joey + Rory, were the hot duo of the country music scene in the late 2000s and early 2010s. Unfortunately, much of their career had to come to a halt in May 2014 when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Although initial surgeries and treatment left her cancer free, it returned in June 2015 and had now spread to her colon.
Although she spent several months fighting the cancer’s return with more surgeries and treatment, her husband announced via a blog post in October 2015 that Joey’s cancer was terminal. Joey Feek passed away on Mar. 4, 2016. Still, it wasn’t without experiencing some joys beforehand, including celebrating her youngest daughter, Indiana’s second birthday, receiving a Grammy nomination for the duo’s song, “If I Needed You,” and completing their final project together, an album of hymns, that peaked at number four on the Billboard 200 chart. One of the pair’s last songs, “When I’m Gone,” is sure to stay in the hearts of fans forever, too.
3. Sheryl Crow
Sheryl Crow, one of the most successful female singer/songwriters in the business, has also seen success with her cancer battles. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006 but has remained cancer-free after receiving a lumpectomy and seven weeks of radiation therapy. We’re relieved she’s been one of the lucky ones on our list of singers diagnosed with cancer and “Strong Enough” to fight her way through it.
4. Sharon Jones
Soul and funk singer Sharon Jones didn’t let her cancer battle in 2013 get her down as she continued to perform for fans even throughout her treatment for bile duct cancer, which was later re-diagnosed as stage II pancreatic cancer. Surgery and chemotherapy initially led to her remission from the cancer, which was later fought off again in 2015. Jones would later die of an unrelated dual stroke in November 2016.
5. Randy Owen
Randy Owen is best known for being the frontman of the legendary country group Alabama, but in 2010, he was forced to slow things down when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. To our relief, the “Mountain Music” man remains cancer-free after receiving successful treatment in Mexico.
6. Rod Stewart
Who can imagine a world without Rod Stewart’s legendary vocals? That could’ve been the reality had his diagnosis of thyroid cancer in 2000 not led to a successful surgery to treat it. After re-learning how to sing, he was back on the music scene to the delight of fans. In 2017, he faced cancer again, but this time it was prostate cancer. Yet again, however, following treatment, he received the news that he was cancer-free in September 2019.
7. Toby Keith
Toby Keith is one of the singers diagnosed with cancer who is still deep in his battle. He announced his diagnosis of stomach cancer in June 2022 after privately undergoing six months of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. Later in December 2022, the country superstar talked about his cancer journey, calling it “pretty debilitating.”
He hasn’t let it stop him from fighting cancer. He recently posted a photo showing his support for Ally’s House, a non-profit organization out of Oklahoma that aids children with cancer. “This is a special charity to me,” the “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” singer noted.
8. Taylor Dayne
Singer, songwriter, and actress Taylor Dayne, known for her hits including “With Every Beat of My Heart” and “Love Will Lead You Back,” announced her battle with colon cancer in 2022, which was revealed following a routine colonoscopy.
To treat it, the “Prove Your Love” singer underwent surgery to remove 10 inches of her colon, which helped deem her cancer-free. Now, she’s encouraging fans to stay on top of their health and has stressed the importance of early detection and screenings.
9. JoDee Messina
Unlike many of our list of singers diagnosed with cancer, country singer JoDee Messina never specified the type of cancer she was fighting in late 2017, which led to the “My Give a D***s Busted” singer canceling all her tour dates as she underwent treatment. While her shows started again in March 2018, it wasn’t revealed until 2022 that the “I’m Alright” singer had successfully recovered from her diagnosis.
10. Jim Ed Brown
After cancer of the throat, the second worst cancer diagnosis in the life of a singer has to be lung cancer, as it affects the ability to breathe correctly. Such was the fate of Jim Ed Brown, famed country singer-songwriter and radio host, who rose to fame in the 1950s as a member of the Browns when he was diagnosed in September 2014. Although he went into remission by early 2015, he announced that it returned just a few months later, on Jun. 3, 2015. He died one week later, on Jun. 11, 2015, at age 81.
11. Hank Cochran
Hank Cochran, a legendary country singer and songwriter of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, bravely battled one of the most deadly forms of cancer, pancreatic cancer, following his surgery to treat it in July 2008. Two years later, in April 2010, a second surgery was done to remove and repair an aortic aneurysm said to be the size of a grapefruit. Even with the surgery, though, the legendary songwriter, whose songs were covered by legends such as Patsy Cline and Ray Price, passed away on Jul. 15, 2010, at only 74 years old.
12. Melissa Etheridge
Melissa Etheridge, a native of Leavenworth, Kansas, the oldest city in the state, who rose to rock music fame in the late 1990s, began her battle against breast cancer in October 2004. After undergoing surgery and chemotherapy, she has not had any more issues. In October 2014, she released a song called “I Run for Life” to celebrate ten cancer-free years.
13. David Bowie
David Bowie is another one on our list of singers diagnosed with cancer whose life was taken due to the cruel disease. His battle with liver cancer ended with his death on Jan. 10, 2016, in his New York City apartment. The news shocked fans because he had privately undergone the prior 18 months of treatment. He fought, though as colleagues noted how the fatal illness never stopped him from coming to work. After his death hit the news, fans rallied around the legendary artist as sales of his albums and songs soared, and memorials were made worldwide.
Related: David Bowie’s Net Worth
14. Bob Marley
Reggae singer and guitarist Bob Marley’s bout with cancer began in July 1977 when he was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma under his right big toe. Acral lentiginous melanoma, which he had, is the most common among those with darker skin. After rejecting the medical advice to have the toe amputated, he had his nail and nail bed removed instead and had a skin graft done to cover the area. A few years later, after collapsing on a jog through Central Park, it was revealed that the cancer had spread to his brain, lungs, and liver and continued to spread in the coming weeks. He died at only 36 years old on May 11, 1981.
15. Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin was the Queen of Soul who bravely fought her pancreatic cancer diagnosis for eight years before it ultimately took her life on Aug. 16, 2018. Franklin was first diagnosed with the hard-to-treat disease in 2010. She’s known as the one who beat the odds, as pancreatic cancer claims most of its victims within five years or less.
16. Bret Michaels
Bret Michaels, best known as lead singer and guitarist of the glam metal group Poison, revealed in an early 2020 Instagram post that he would be undergoing treatment for skin cancer and a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder. The “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn” singer remained optimistic in his post, telling fans: “I’m in the hands of incredible specialists who are both positive for great outcomes. It may slow me down a bit at the beginning of the year, but if God willing, I promise this year will be awesome.”
Related: Bret Michaels’ Net Worth
17. Rob Halford
British heavy metal singer Rob Halford, the lead vocalist of Judas Priest, started his cancer journey during the COVID-19 pandemic after initially experiencing symptoms in 2017 that led to a diagnosis of prostate cancer. His initial treatment included a prostatectomy in July 2020, but he had to undergo further radiation after more cancer was found. He also had to have an appendectomy because a tumor was found on his appendix.
Related: Judas Priest 50 Years of Metal
18. Carly Simon
A singer most well known for her hits “You’re So Vain” and “Coming Around Again,” Carly joined our list of celebrities diagnosed with cancer in 1997 with her breast cancer diagnosis. She underwent chemotherapy and is currently in remission, but doctors warn her cancer is likely to return. She just hopes they find a cure before then.
19. Bruce Dickinson
The singer of the band Iron Maiden, Bruce Dickinson, was devastated when he found a lump in the back of his throat. Further investigation in 2015 revealed that he did have throat cancer. He sought treatment right away and is currently in remission and still singing on a regular basis.
Another metal singer to make our list of celebrities diagnosed with cancer, Nergal, was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010. His bandmates in Behemoth were devastated, especially because the doctors said there wasn’t much hope. Nergal got lucky, though, and a match was found for his bone marrow, allowing him to have a transplant and officially be declared cancer free.
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