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5 Famous People Who Passed Away From Cancer

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Cancer is a disease in which some of the body’s cells grow in an uncontrolled fashion and spread to other parts of the body. It is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for nearly 10 million deaths in 2020. The most common forms of cancer include breast cancer, lung cancer, colon and rectum cancer, prostate cancer in males, skin cancer, and stomach cancer. Today, this article lists out 5 famous people that died of cancer. 

1. John McCain (1936-2018)

john mccain cancer death

Figure 1. John McCain

John McCain, an American politician, statesman and US Navy captain who served as US Senator for Arizona from 1987 until his death in 2018. He was also the Republican nominee for president of the United States in the 2008 election, which he lost to Barack Obama. 

In July 2017, he was diagnosed with glioblastoma – a common but very aggressive cancerous brain tumour. At that time a minimally invasive surgery was performed to remove a blood clot above his left eye. On August 24th 2018, his family announced that he would no longer receive treatment for his cancer. He died the following day. 

Glioblastoma forms from cells called astrocytes that support nerve cells in our brain. It can occur at any stage, with higher occurrence in older adults. Common symptoms include headaches, nausea, vomiting and seizure. So far there is no cure for glioblastoma, with the only available options being chemo or radiotherapy. The average survival time is 12 to 18 months after diagnosis. 

2. Irrfan Khan (1967-2020)

Irrfan Khan cancer detah

Figure 2. Irrfan Khan

Irrfan Khan, also known simply as Irrfan, is cited in the media as one of the finest actors in Indian cinema. His success came from his starring roles in movies like The Lunchbox, Piku, and Talvar. He also had supporting roles in the Hollywood films The Amazing Spider-Man, Life of Pi, Jurassic World, and Inferno

In March 2018, he was diagnosed with a rare form of neuroendocrine tumour. In 2019 he flew to London for medical treatment and came back to India in 2020. In April 2020, he was admitted to the hospital for a colon infection, and died soon afterwards. 

Neuroendocrine cells are found through the body, but mainly in our small and large bowel, pancreas, and lungs. A neuroendocrine tumour is a very rare form of cancer with limited understanding in the medical field. It can be benign or malignant. Genetic factors and pre-existing conditions such as peptic ulcers or diabetes can contribute to its onset. So far there hasn’t been any definitive treatment available for neuroendocrine tumours. 

3. Alan Rickman (1946 – 2016)

Alan Rickman cancer death

Figure 3. Alan Rickman

Alan Rickman was an English actor and director. Known for his deep and languid voice, he starred Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series from 2001 to 2011. In November 2011, he was awarded the Broadway.com Audience Choice Award for Favourite Actor in a Play and was nominated for a Drama League Award. In August 2015, Rickman had a minor stroke, which led to the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, which was at terminal stage. He died in January 2016 at the age of 69. 

Pancreatic cancer occurs when malignant cells develop in the pancreas. The pancreas is one of the most important endocrine and digestive organs in our body. It secretes hormones to regulate blood sugar, and enzymes to digest protein and lipid. Common symptoms include loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, weight loss, change in bowel habits, jaundice and back pain. So far, surgery with chemo or radiotherapy is the best treatment option. 

4. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (1929-1994)

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis cancer death

Figure 4. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was an American socialite, writer, photographer and book editor who served as the first lady of the United States from 1961 to 1963 as the wife of John F. Kennedy. During her lifetime, she was regarded as an international fashion icon

In November 1993, she was thrown from her horse while participating in a fox hunt and was found to have a swollen lymph node in her groin. A swollen lymph node in her neck was discovered six months later. She was diagnosed to have non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a blood cancer. She received chemotherapy, but cancer soon spread to her spinal cord and brain. She died soon after in 1994, at age 64. 

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a type of cancer that begins in the lymphatic system, which is part of the body’s immune system. In non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, white blood cells grow abnormally and form tumours across our body. Common symptoms include swollen lymph nodes, abdominal pain, chest pain, fatigue, fever and night sweats. Chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and radiotherapy are available as treatment options. 

5. David Bowie (1947-2016)

David Bowie cancer death

Figure 5. David Bowie

David Robert Jones, known professionally as David Bowie, was an English singer-songwriter and actor. He was regarded as one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. Famous records include Ashes to Ashes, Scary Monsters, and Under Pressure. He reached his peak commercial success in 1983 with Let’s Dance: its title track topped both musical charts in the UK and US. 

He was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2014 and died as a result 18 months later in January 2016. The liver functions to produce protein, filter blood toxins, and is arguably the most important organ in our body. Liver cancer is formed from liver cells. Common symptoms include weakness, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, weight loss, jaundice etc. Early diagnosis and treatment usually lead to a better prognosis. Common treatment includes surgery, chemo or radiotherapy.

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