Stanley Tucci reveals he had cancer

The actor was treated for an inoperable tumour on his tongue three years ago.

Maija Kappler 3 minute read September 8, 2021
Stanley Tucci oral cancer

Actor Stanley Tucci opened up about his cancer battle. TOBIAS SCHWARZ /AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Stanley Tucci, beloved actor and Negroni-maker, revealed that he had cancer three years ago, but that it’s been successfully treated.

The actor, now 60, was diagnosed with a tumour at the base of his tongue three years ago, he told Vera, Virgin Atlantic’s in-flight magazine.

“It was too big to operate, so they had to do high-dose radiation and chemo,” he says. “I’d vowed I’d never do anything like that, because my first wife died of cancer, and to watch her go through those treatments for years was horrible.”

His late wife Kate Spath-Tucci, who had breast cancer, died in 2009. The couple had been married 14 years.

As a result of his cancer diagnosis, Tucci had to use a feeding tube for six months, he said. He was worried about how his diagnosis would impact his five children. His three oldest — Camilla, 18, and twins Nicolo and Isabel, 21 — had already seen their mom die of cancer. (He shares his two youngest children with his second wife, literary agent Felicity Blunt.)

“The kids were great, but it was hard for them,” Tucci said. “I could barely make it to the twins’ high school graduation.”

Today, though, Tucci says he’s cancer-free, and the illness is unlikely to return at this stage.

Cancer “makes you more afraid and less afraid at the same time,” he said. “I feel much older than I did before I was sick. But you still want to get ahead and get things done.”

Oral cancers can occur on the tongue as well as the lips, gums, roof of the mouth, floor of the mouth, and inner lining of the cheeks. It’s much more common in men than women, according to WebMD: men have twice the risk of developing oral cancer than women do. It’s also most common in men over the age of 50.

Cancerous mouth tumours usually start in squamous cells, the flat, thin cells that make up the mouth’s mucous membrane.

People who smoke, drink a lot of alcohol, or have human papillomavirus (HPV) are more likely to develop oral cancer. Excessive sun exposure at a young age and a family history of cancer are also risk factors.

In many cases, oral cancers are first diagnosed by dentists, who look around for irregularities, discoloured tissue or growths. You can also perform a self-exam using a flashlight and a mirror.

The good news is that oral cancers caught before they’ve spread have a relatively high survival rate: 83 per cent. It goes down 64 per cent if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, and 38 per cent for the rest of the body.

For more information or resources about living with cancer, visit the Canadian Cancer Society.