Michael Douglas Reveals He Had Tongue Cancer, Not Throat Cancer

Michael Douglas
In a new interview with Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Douglas reveals he had tongue cancer, not throat cancer -- find out why he hid the truth Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Michael Douglas has spoken candidly in the past about his 2010 battle with cancer. But it turns out that he wasn't being completely honest about his diagnosis. In a new interview with pal Samuel L. Jackson for the U.K. talk show This Morning, the 69-year-old Oscar winner reveals that he actually had tongue cancer — not, as he previously claimed, throat cancer.

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Recalling the moment he knew something was terribly wrong, Douglas says, "[The doctor] just took a tongue depressor and — I will never forget it — I saw this look in his eye. And I went, 'Oh.' And they took a biopsy, and two days later, they said, 'You have cancer.'"

At the time, the Behind the Candelabra star was preparing to go to Europe to promote the movie Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. "You can't cancel a worldwide European tour junket thing and say, 'I don't feel well.' You gotta tell 'em. So I said, 'We just gotta come out [with the diagnosis],'" Douglas explains.

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His doctor agreed — but he advised the star to fudge the truth a little. "He said, 'Let's just say it's throat cancer…We don't want to say it's tongue cancer,'" the actor tells Jackson. "I said, 'Why is that?' He said, 'Well, if you really want to know why — if we do have to do surgery, it's not going to be pretty. You'll lose part of your jaw and your tongue, and all of that stuff.'"

Worried he might never work again — or worse — the father of three did as his doctor said. He managed to avoid losing his tongue, but his appearance did change. "I looked pretty weird," he recalls. "I lost a lot of weight."

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These days, though, he's proud to say he has a clean bill of health. He recently passed the two-year mark of being cancer-free — which is a big deal. "With my type of cancer, if you're clean after two years, there's a 95 percent chance it's not coming back," he tells Jackson.

Douglas knows how lucky he is to be well, and he hopes other men will learn from his experience. "Hey guys, you look at your body every day. You know every mole, everything that's there," he advises. "You see something that looks a little strange, you feel a bump somewhere, check it out — please. I made the mistake. I don't want to see you do it."

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