The actress Jane Fonda announced on Friday that she had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a treatable form of cancer of the lymph system, and that she would be undergoing chemotherapy treatments for six months.
“This is a very treatable cancer,” she wrote in a post on her Instagram account. “I feel very lucky.”
Fonda, 84, a highly decorated star who has long been an activist for social causes, also wrote in her Instagram post that she felt lucky to have health insurance as well as “access to the best doctors and treatments.”
“I realize, and it’s painful, that I am privileged in this,” she said. “Almost every family in America has had to deal with cancer at one time or another and far too many don’t have access to the quality health care I am receiving and this is not right.”
Fonda is a two-time Academy Award winner for her performances in “Klute” and “Coming Home.” She has also worked as a producer, documentarian and activist. In 2019 she was arrested multiple times after staging protests in Washington to highlight the urgency of the climate crisis.
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is the fifth most common type of cancer in America, said Dr. Matthew Matasar, an oncologist at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center who specializes in the illness. The National Cancer Institute estimates that there will be more than 80,000 new cases of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma this year.
“There are actually over 100 different types of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” said Dr. Matasar, but the defining characteristic of the illness is that it develops in the immune cells.
People ages 60 and older are more likely to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, said Dr. Leonidas Platanias, director of the Lurie Cancer Center at Northwestern Medicine, and the earlier it is detected, the better chance a person has of surviving.
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While it’s unclear what kind Ms. Fonda has been diagnosed with, all types of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma are treatable and some patients even go into long remission. “It’s not a death sentence,” said Dr. William Dahut, chief scientific officer of the American Cancer Society.
Symptoms of unmanaged non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma can include pain, night sweats, weight loss, swelling and fevers, although some kinds of lymphoma can be asymptomatic and are found “accidentally while doing tests for other purposes,” Dr. Matasar said.
The severity of the illness depends on where the lymphoma originates, Dr. Dahut said. If it starts in the brain, the prognosis is worse. Outcomes are better if it’s localized to a lymph node. Underlying health issues may complicate a patient’s response to chemotherapy, particularly for older people. But, “some people have very, very good prognosis,” he said.
“I’m doing chemo for 6 months and am handling the treatments quite well,” Fonda wrote in her post, “and, believe me, I will not let any of this interfere with my climate activism.”