Remembering 'Gilligan's Island' Star Alan Hale Jr.
- Actor Alan Hale Jr., a 1960s household name known for playing Skipper on Gilligan’s Island, died 32 years ago in Hollywood at 71.
- Hale had cancer of the thymus, which is a small organ in the front part of the chest behind the breast bone (sternum).
- Symptoms of thymic carcinomas include: a persistent cough, difficulty breathing, trouble swallowing, and pain in the chest. The most common way to look for this type of cancer is via CT scan of the chest, then confirming any suspicious tissue via biopsy.
He had cancer of the thymus, which is a small organ in the front part of the chest behind the breast bone (sternum).Read More
The family did not share details on the TV legend’s treatment or timeline battling his cancer. Typically, treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy.
Hale was survived by his wife Naomi Hale, who died in 2008, and their four children. Hale had requested that his ashes be scattered at sea.
A Los Angeles native born into a performer family, Hale reportedly appeared in 65 films before landing Gilligan’s Island and becoming famous. The show aired from 1964 to 1967 and went into syndication. It became one of the longest-running “rerun” shows in TV history.
The Gilligan to Hale’s Skipper, late actor Bob Denver—who died from throat cancer in 2005— shared some words at the time about his late pal.
”He was so strong that I could run across the stage, and he could catch me like a feather,” Denver fondly recalled. ”That’s what made our comedy so great.”
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Cancer of the Thymus
Cancer of the thymus is rare, according to the American Cancer Society.
The irregularly shaped organ, an essential part of the body’s immune system, is divided into two halves and has 3 layers: The medulla on the inside, the layer surrounding it, which is the cortex, and the thin covering outside of the thymus is the capsule.
T lymphocytes, or T cells, a type of white blood cell that helps protect the immune system mature in the thymus. These cells—whether in the thymus or other parts of the body—can also develop into non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Although the thymus is mostly made up of these lymphocytes, it is also made up of epithelial cells, which give the thymus its structure and shape. Thymomas and thymic carcinomas can develop from these cells.
Symptoms of thymic carcinomas include: a persistent cough, difficulty breathing, trouble swallowing, and pain in the chest. The most common way to look for this type of cancer is via CT scan of the chest, then confirming any suspicious tissue via biopsy.
If you go to your doctor with symptoms such as night sweats, fevers, and swollen lymph nodes, your doctor may suspect that you have non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which can also be found in the thymus.
Doctors will first do a physical exam and sometimes blood tests and CT or PET scans before they decide to investigate further for lymphoma. And depending on what they find, and where the swollen lymph nodes are located, they will do a biopsy of the area.
The node is sent to a laboratory for examination under the microscope to see if cancer cells are present. “If you have a lymph node excised and it doesn’t show lymphoma, we can say with some confidence that whatever you have is probably not lymphoma,” Dr. Catherine Diefenbach from NYU Langone Health told SurvivorNet in a previous interview.
But if the suspicious lymph node is located deep within the body, or in an area with a lot of blood vessels or nerves, then doctors may have to do a more involved surgical procedure or placed under general anesthesia.
Your doctor will decide what type of biopsy to recommend — and when — depending on your symptoms, results of other tests, and the location of the swollen or suspicious lymph node. Singly or together, these types of biopsy will provide the information your doctor needs to correctly make your diagnosis.