Michael Douglas revealed that he lied to the public about his cancer diagnosis – he suffered from tongue cancer, not throat cancer as originally released to the press – during an interview with Samuel L. Jackson for a Male Cancer Awareness special.

Jackson paired up with UK television station ITV to promote his ‘One of the Boys’ campaign, which urges men to take care of their health, for ITV’s Male Cancer Awareness Week. And, on Thursday, Jackson aired his interview of cancer-survivor (and recent Emmy winner) Douglas.

In the interview, Douglas reveals that it was nine months after he originally complained to a doctor about a pain in his throat that he was finally diagnosed with tongue cancer. Fans will note that Douglas was not diagnosed with throat cancer; that is simply what he told the public. Douglas insists that his public deception did not extend beyond the cancerous body part. He did have Stage IV caner, and he did undergo severe treatment, but he was not suffering from throat cancer.

“The surgeon said, ‘let’s just say it’s throat cancer.’ I said, ‘Okay, you don’t want to say it’s tongue cancer?’ I said, ‘Why’s that?’ and he said, ‘Well if you really want to know why, if we do have to have surgery it’s not going to be pretty. You’ll lose part of your jaw and your tongue and all that stuff.’ So I said, ‘Okay, sure,’” Douglas says in the interview.

Douglas and his doctors thought that keeping the exact diagnosis private would be best for the actor in the long run, in part due to the possibility of the actor losing, arguably, one of his strongest assets in the profession: his looks. Douglas also notes that he was almost forced to tell the public of his diagnosis in the first place because he was going to have to cancel a European press tour for Wall Street.

“This was right before I had on a big tour for Wall Street, so we kind of said there’s no way we can cancel the tour and say we don’t feel well… You’ve got to tell them. I said, you’ve just got to come out and just tell them I’ve got cancer and that’s it,” Douglas explains.

Jackson also gets Douglas to open up about his chemotherapy treatment and the reaction of his family, especially his two young children with wife Catherine Zeta-Jones, who had to read tabloid headlines speculating that he had “three weeks to live.”

Douglas tells Jackson his kids were a huge support for him during his treatment, and he even occasionally brought them along to the hospital so that they could see the reality for themselves:

“I brought them, they came over to see the radiation thing… I found the more they knew, the better it was. What scares you is not knowing.”

The interview ends on a lighter note, with Douglas announcing that he has just passed the 2-year-mark of recovery, meaning there is a 95% chance that his tongue cancer will never return.

Finally, Douglas urges men not to be afraid to seek professional help if they feel that something is wrong with their health.

“Hey guys, you look at your body every day, you know every mole, everything that’s there. 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,” Douglas says, looking straight into the camera.

Olivia Truffaut-Wong

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