Dolph Lundgren says he was diagnosed with kidney cancer eight years ago and at one point was told by a doctor that he only had two to three years to live.
The Aquarius And Rocky IV star first opened up about his diagnosis while appearing In-depth with Graham Bensinger. He was first diagnosed in 2015 after doctors in LA found a cancerous tumor in his kidney. Lundgren says he is now open about raising awareness.
“If you can save the life of one person who was in my situation, it’s well worth it,” he said. “As an actor, you try to bring positive emotion and positive energy into the world and I’ve always tried to be nice to everyone and meet all the fans, whoever, and maybe it came back to me somehow.”
Discussing his years of treatment, the actor said he started having “scans every six months” in 2015, before escalating to every year, and eventually he was “fine for five years.” Back in Sweden in 2020, he said he had acid reflux and went for a checkup. “I did an MRI and they found there were a few more tumors in that area,” he explained.
The actor noted that he underwent surgery to remove six tumors, only to find one more had been found.
“There is a movie I was going to direct in the fall that I was going to play the lead role in. The doctor called me when I was in Alabama, ready to shoot, and said, ‘They found another tumor in the liver,’” he recalls. “It was then that it dawned on me that this is something serious. They did a scan to prepare for the surgery. And the surgeon called me and said, ‘No, it’s grown now. It’s too big. We can’t get it out. It’s the size of a small lemon.’”
He would then have to undergo more therapy which began to cause side effects such as diarrhea, causing him to lose a lot of weight – something he and his fiancé “suffered from.” Those difficulties continued during a trip to London in the fall of 2021, where he began filming The consumers 4 And Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.
“The problem was that the doctor there (Cedars) didn’t really share any information with us. We didn’t really know that we didn’t know what was going on,” he recalls. “I haven’t heard from the folks at Cedars for six months. They never called me or anything. I think now, thinking back, they probably thought, ‘Oh, I’m a lost cause.’”
Lundgren said his health team’s tone was starting to change, with the doctor saying “things like, ‘You should probably take a break and spend more time with your family and so on’.” That led him to ask how much time he had. left, to which the doctor replied “two or three years”, though Lundgren said he “could tell from his voice that he probably thought it was less.”
“You kind of look at your life and say, ‘I’ve had a great life.’ I’ve had a great great life. I’ve already lived five lives in one with everything I’ve done,” the said Creed II star said. So it wasn’t like I was bitter about it. It was like I feel sorry for my kids and my fiancé and the people around you because I’m still quite a young man and fairly active.
However, that prognosis would face some backlash after the Hollywood performer sought a second opinion from a doctor who was treating his kidney cancer with an approach that targeted a mutation common in lung cancer. The actor reveals that if he had taken the first doctor’s advice, “he would have had about three or four more months.” Lundgren said.
Instead, he saw a radical difference, and within three months “business shrunk by 20, 30 percent.” He added that he continued this form of treatment until 2022, with his drugs shrinking his tumors by about 90 percent. The whole experience is something that makes him “appreciate life more.”
“Now I’m working on removing the remaining scar tissue from these tumors,” said the actor. “Hopefully when they get these out there’s no cancer activity and the medication I’m taking will suppress everything else.”