My Story: Stars Who've Faced Breast Cancer

From Angelina Jolie going public about her double mastectomy to Melissa Etheridge's memorable return to the stage, see the women who've shared their survivor stories

BETTY FORD

Age at diagnosis: 56
Only weeks after husband Gerald Ford became president in the wake of Richard Nixon's resignation, the first lady was diagnosed with a malignant breast tumor – and broke convention by speaking out about it in the Oct. 7, 1974, issue of Newsweek. "I once asked, 'Why did you come out and discuss your cancer?'" friend Nancy Brinker, who started the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation, recalled to PEOPLE in 2011. "She said, 'People are put on earth to do things like this.'" Ford's candor led to growing awareness among American women, including the practice of early detection, such as mammograms.