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Dolph Lundgren’s Health: His Battle With Cancer & How He’s Doing Now

Dolph Lundgren
Image Credit: ALLISON DINNER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

  • Dolph Lundgren is an actor best known for his portrayal of Ivan Drago in ‘Rocky IV’
  • He was diagnosed with cancer in 2015, but he took years to publicly announce his diagnosis
  • Dolph was told he had three years at most to live — until he sought a second opinion and received life-saving treatment

Rocky IV star Hans “Dolph” Lundgren revealed in May 2023 that he has been quietly undergoing treatment for cancer since 2015, which is when doctors found a tumor in his kidney. In 2020, they found several more tumors which were then surgically removed. “There’s a picture there I was going to direct and star in that was starting in the fall. The doctor called me when I was in Alabama ready to shoot and said they found one more tumor in the liver,” he recalled on the May 24, 2023 episode of In Depth With Graham Bensinger.

That’s when Dolph, 65, realized his cancer was “kind of something serious.” In fact, the tumor was so “serious” that they could not surgically remove it. Dolph ended up going the systemic therapy route (which is “any type of cancer treatment that targets the entire body”, per the Moffitt Cancer Center) and dealt with draining side effects.  Read on to learn about Dolph’s cancer diagnosis and how he’s doing today.

Dolph Lundgren
Dolph Lundgren was diagnosed with cancer in 2015 but did not reveal the news publicly until 2023 (Photo: ALLISON DINNER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Dolph Lundgren Diagnosed With Kidney Cancer

As mentioned above, Dolph was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2015. “I did scans every six months,” he explained to Graham Besinger on his podcast. “Then you do it every year and it was fine for five years.” Speaking of the time his cancer returned, he added, “In 2020, I was back in Sweden and had some kind of acid reflux… So I did an MRI, and they found that there were a few more tumors around that area.”

The Universal Soldier star had six tumors removed, but that, unfortunately, did not clear him this time. He received a call from his doctor shortly after his surgery that informed him he had a tumor in his body the size of a lemon, which could not be surgically removed.

What Is Kidney Cancer?

Kidney cancer is cancer that begins in the kidneys, per Mayo Clinic. Renal cell carcinoma is the most common type of kidney cancer found in adults. People usually don’t feel the symptoms of kidney cancer until it has developed past its beginning stages. Luckily, according to Mayo Clinic, kidney cancer is usually caught at an early stage.

How Long Has Dolph Lundgren Been Sick?

Dolph Lundgren
Dolph Lundgren in 1985’s ‘Rocky IV’ (Photo: Everett Collection)

Dolph was officially diagnosed with cancer in 2015, and he did not reveal if he had any tell-tale symptoms beforehand. However, he admitted that his cancer treatment symptoms were pretty intense. “His mouth got really sore, his hands got sore [and his] feet, and he couldn’t eat anything warm, anything cold, anything spicy … so he kept losing weight, ” his fiance, Emma Korkdal, revealed during the interview with Graham. Dolph also said he had frequent diarrhea, which also contributed to his weight loss.

How Is Dolph Lundgren Doing Today?

Dolph is virtually cancer free and doing much better — especially considering he was not given a positive outlook when his cancer returned in 2021. During his In Depth interview, Dolph revealed he was given two to three years to live by the doctors who located his cancer in 2020. “[The doctor] started saying things like, ‘You should probably take a break and spend more time with your family and so forth,’” he candidly recalled. “So I kind of asked him, ‘How long do you think I got left?’ I think he said two or three years, but I could tell in his voice that he probably thought it was less.”

Dolph admitted that he was not “bitter” about the grim prognosis because he lived a full life. “You kind of look at your life and going, ‘I’ve had a great life,’” he noted. “I’ve had a freaking great life. I’ve lived like five lifetimes in one already with everything I’ve done.” He added, “It was just like [I] feel sorry for my kids and my fiancée and the people around you because I’m still a fairly young guy and fairly active.” Dolph has two adult daughters, Ida and Greta, from his marriage with Anette Qviberg.

And although he feels grateful for his life, the reality of the news weighed on him heavily, and Dolph became depressed. As a last-ditch effort to ease his mind, he got a second opinion — and it saved his life. The Kindergarten Cop 2 actor’s oncologist, Dr. Alexandra Drakaki, explained that she was able to find a mutation in his kidney cancer that allowed her to treat it like lung cancer, and that opened up a world of possibilities for treatment.

“If I’d gone on the other treatment, I had about three or four months left. I couldn’t believe that that it would be that radical of a difference that within three months, things were shrinking by 20, 30%,” Dolph enthusiastically stated. In 2022, his tumor shrunk by 90%. “Now I’m in the process of taking out the remaining scar tissue of these tumors,” he added. “Hopefully when they take these out, there is no cancer activity, and the medication that I’m taking is going to suppress everything else.”

Dolph added that his eight-year cancer journey has given him a new sense of appreciation for life. “You appreciate every day I can be with people I love. You just appreciate, you know, having been lucky enough to be alive and appreciate every moment there is,” he stated. 

He also said he spoke publicly about his cancer diagnosis so he could potentially help someone else who may be in a similar situation. “If you can save one person’s life who was in my situation, then it’s worth it, for sure,” he explained. “As an actor, you try to put positive emotion and positive energy into the world and I’ve always tried to be nice to everybody and meet all fans, anybody, and it maybe came back to me somehow.”

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