Living Long After Cancer Battles
- Actor Ryan O’Neal, 82, appears to be healthy and enjoying life in a new Instagram photo posted by his daughter.
- O’Neal overcame both leukemia and prostate cancer, and today and seems to spend lots of time with loved ones.
- Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in American men, other than skin cancers.
- Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), also known as chronic myelogenous leukemia, is a type of cancer of the white blood cells.
- Exercise, a balanced diet, and reducing stress can all contribute to a long and healthy life after battling cancer.
Longtime award-winning actor Ryan O’Neal appears in good health as the cancer survivor celebrated his 82nd birthday with his family, appearing to be enjoying his golden years after overcoming both leukemia and prostate cancer.
O’Neal is known for films like “Love Story” and “What’s Up, Doc?” His daughter, Tatum O’Neal, shared a heartwarming photo of herself sitting alongside her dad embracing in a side hug on his birthday.Read More
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O’Neal’s acting career began in the early 1960s and it lasted until the 2010s. He and his daughter Tatum had their own reality tv show in 2011 called “Ryan and Tatum: The O’Neals,” which focused on rebuilding their once estranged relationship.
Whenever O’Neal makes rare cameos on social media nowadays, he’s often seen smiling and surrounded by loved ones. He also takes time out to remember Fawcett, who is the mother of his son, Redmond O’Neal, 38.
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Earlier this year, O’Neal’s younger brother, Kevin O’Neal, passed away at age 77. Kevin also acted in several films alongside Ryan. Patrick O’Neal, one of Ryan O’Neal’s sons, posted on social media remembering his late uncle.
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If his sporadic public appearances on social media indicate anything, it’s that Ryan O’Neal cherishes spending quality time with family and loved ones after his health battles.
Ryan O’Neal’s Cancer Journey
In 2001, Ryan O’Neal’s chronic myelogenous leukemia, a cancer of the white blood cells, was made public after his spokeswoman acknowledged the diagnosis, ABC News reported.
“It is treatable, and he is doing very well,” Dede Binder said at the time.
O’Neal’s spokeswoman did not say what kind of treatment he underwent at the time, but he remains in remission today.
Then, in 2012, O’Neal revealed in a statement to People he was diagnosed with stage 2 prostate cancer.
“Although I was shocked and stunned by the news, I feel fortunate that it was detected early,” O’Neal said.
He underwent cryotherapy treatment, which is the freezing of cancer cells and is most often used for early prostate cancer. He eventually beat the disease.
Understanding Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. It starts in the walnut-shaped prostate gland, which is located between the rectum and bladder and produces the fluid that nourishes sperm.
In the United States, most prostate cancer is caught with screening examinations. Prostate cancer can behave differently from one man to another.
Sometimes, it is called “low-risk” and can be slow-growing and treatment might not be necessary. In other men, the cancer may grow faster or be more aggressive and will require treatment.
Because this cancer can behave so differently from one person to the next, screening and treatment decisions are individualized for each person.
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A PSA test (measuring prostate-specific antigen in the blood) and a digital rectal exam can alert your doctor to the possibility that you might have cancer. These two tests are either performed as part of prostate cancer screening or if the doctor thinks you may have prostate cancer based on any symptoms you have.
Although people may have these tests done to help detect cancer, the only way to definitively diagnose prostate cancer is with a biopsy.
According to the expert physicians that SurvivorNet spoke with, if you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, there is reason for hope, as there are many options to successfully treat the cancer.
Prostate Cancer Risk Factors and Symptoms
Certain factors make you more likely to develop prostate cancer. These include:
- Family history
- Age, as men over 50 are at higher risk
- Race, as Black men are more likely to get prostate cancer while Latino and Asian-American men are less likely. Researchers are still trying to learn why this is.
However, just because you have these risks doesn’t mean you’re destined to get this cancer.
Some symptoms of prostate cancer include:
- Blood in your urine
- Trouble getting an erection
- Pain or burning when you urinate
- Pain in your back, hips, thighs, or other bones
- Unexplained weight loss
Treating Prostate Cancer
If you have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, doctors will determine if you are at low, intermediate, or high risk based on your PSA levels, imaging scans, and a prostate exam.
Your age and overall health also factor into what will be the best course of treatment for you.
Common treatment options for men with prostate cancer include:
- Radiation therapy
- Active surveillance
- Combination radiation therapy with hormonal therapy
- Surgery followed by radiation therapy
WATCH: Could A Urine Test Be The Future of Prostate Cancer Screening?
What Is Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML)?
Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML), also known as chronic myelogenous leukemia, is a type of cancer of the white blood cells. The American Cancer Society says about “8,930 new cases will be diagnosed with CML (5,190 in men and 3,740 in women)” this year.
In CML, blast cells (or immature white blood cells) form and uncontrollably multiply and divide. This change in cells creates an abnormal gene called BCR-ABL, which is responsible for turning healthy cells into CML cells.
As the disease progresses, CML cells crowd out healthy cells and eventually build up and spill over into the blood. CML cells can also land in other areas of the body, among them the spleen, intestinal tract, kidneys, and lungs.
Although CML usually grows slowly, it can also turn into faster-growing acute leukemia. When this happens, CML may become more difficult to treat.
With early diagnosis and treatment, experts say the prognosis for the disease is very good.
“It’s important for patients diagnosed with CML to understand that their prognosis is quite favorable,” Dr. Jay Yang, hematologist, medical oncologist, and leader of the Hematology Oncology Multidisciplinary Team at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit, tells SurvivorNet.
“With modern treatments, most patients will go on to live healthy and productive lives with a normal life expectancy.”
CML Risk Factors and Symptoms
“We don’t know exactly why some people get CML,” says Dr. Yang. “It’s not a cancer that’s strongly associated with environmental exposures and it’s not thought to be hereditary.”
Currently, the only known risk factor for CML is exposure to radiation, according to Dr. Frances Arena, Medical Director at NYU Langone Arena Oncology and Integration.
“Our only known reason for getting CML is exposure to radiation such as the event at Chernobyl. Outside of radiation exposure, we know it’s primarily a disease of older people and that means people in their sixth and seventh decade.” However, younger people may be diagnosed with the disease as well — it is just less common.
Symptoms for CML are often vague, as they can be linked to many other ailments. However, common symptoms include:
- Night sweats
- Weight loss
- Bone pain
- An enlarged spleen (which may be felt as a mass under the left side of the ribcage)
- Pain or a sense of fullness in the stomach
- Feeling full after a small about of food
Caring for Your Body After Cancer Battle
Ryan O’Neal, at the golden age of 82, has managed to see the fruits of his labor as an actor. In 2021, he was honored with his own star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.
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Life after cancer can be fruitful for you too, especially if you maintain a healthy lifestyle. Mayo Clinic has some tips for improving your quality of life while transitioning to survivorship including:
- Eat a balanced diet
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Reduce stress
- Stop using tobacco
- Limit alcohol consumption
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