- Audrey Hepburn was born May 4, 1929, and passed away at 63 in 1993 after a battle with a rare cancer of the appendix called pseudomyxoma peritonei.
- Hepburn treated her disease with surgery in November 1992.
- Dealing with a cancer diagnosis can be accompanied by grief and depression; treating your mental health along with your physical health is important for cancer care outcomes.
Audrey’s Cancer Battle
Hepburn was diagnosed with cancer of the appendix in 1992, and underwent surgery to treat her disease at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. She passed on January 20, 1993, near her home in Lausanne, Switzerland. Hepburn was 63 years old when she died.
Hepburn had a rare appendiceal cancer called pseudomyxoma peritonei (PMP). PMP is in the same family of cancers as colon cancer. This type of cancer begins as a small polyp in the appendix, and can then spread to other areas of the body. A risk factor for many cancers, including colon cancers, is smoking; Hepburn was a life-long smoker.
Coping with a Cancer Diagnosis
After a diagnosis of cancer, many people experience a great deal of grief, anxiety, and even depression. It’s important to deal with your emotional and mental health, along with your physical health during this time.
Dr. Scott Irwin says in an earlier interview that treating mental health can directly impact one’s physical health in a positive way. “Depression is a really interesting topic, because a lot of people assume that, oh, they have cancer. They must be depressed. That’s actually not true,” he says.
“85% of patients do not get what would be considered a clinical depression. 15% do. For prescribing medications for depression in the context of cancer, I often try to choose medications with the lowest side effect profile. If patients are getting hormonal therapy, there’s particular antidepressants that we can’t use, because they may lower the effectiveness of that hormonal therapy,” says Dr. Irwin. “And so we choose antidepressants that don’t impact the cancer care.”
“Depression and stress make it harder to treat cancer, make it harder to tolerate the treatments,” he says. “Actually, there’s data that if you have extra stress or depression that you may not recover or you have a higher risk of recurrence, so that in treating the depression, we’re actually impacting the cancer care outcomes.”