Stanley Tucci spoke about finding out he had oral cancer—after two years of being misdiagnosed—undergoing chemo and radiation, and what the experience taught him in a new interview with NBC reporter Willie Geist. On this week’s episode of the Sunday Sitdown podcast, Tucci, 62, also said that if he hadn’t allowed doctors to treat him aggressively, he may not have lived.
At the time Tucci was diagnosed, in 2017, the actor had lost people close to him to cancer. “My first wife died of cancer, and I’ve had a lot of friends who’ve died of cancer…. I knew a lot about cancer,” he said. Kate Spath-Tucci died of breast cancer in 2009 at age 47. In a 2021 interview with CBS Sunday Morning, Tucci spoke about the grief he experienced after she passed. “It’s still hard after 11 years…. And it will always be hard,” he said.
Tucci’s diagnosis caught him off guard, he continued: “When I got it, I was completely shocked. I’m very healthy.” At first, he didn’t want to try conventional treatments, given what he’d witnessed during his first wife’s illness. “I didn’t want to do standard-of-care treatment; I was adamantly against it,” Tucci said. “I was so afraid [because] I saw what it did to her.” Eventually, though, after looking at statistics related to medical care for oral cancer, he chose to undergo treatment. “They had to drag me kicking and screaming, [but] I wouldn’t be around if I hadn’t done that.” Tucci said his current wife, Felicity Blunt, encouraged him to go this route. “Felicity was very insistent,” he said.
Tucci’s tumor, located at the base of his tongue, was too big to operate on, so his treatment plan consisted of 35 days of high-dose radiation and then six rounds of chemotherapy. “The treatments were brutal,” Tucci said. “I lost 35 pounds. I couldn’t eat and had a feeding tube for six months.”
But Tucci counted himself lucky, given that his cancer hadn’t spread—especially since it had taken him two years to get an accurate diagnosis. “The fact that it didn’t metastasize was amazing,” he said.
One of the lessons his illness taught him, Tucci said, is the importance of staying on top of your health. “If you feel like there’s something [wrong], you just have to go get checked,” he said. “Catch it early…. Don’t sit around and wait.”