On Tuesday night’s Late Show with David Letterman the actor revealed to the world the severity of his battle with the disease.
Michael Douglas spoke candidly with Letterman about his stage 4 throat cancer — the most advanced form of the illness. The 65-year-old said he’s undergoing a brutal mix of chemotherapy and radiation to treat a tumor at the base of his tongue. But since the cancer has not spread below his throat, he is optimistic about his recovery, noting an 80% chance at this point to oust the ailment. (See Michael Douglas in TIME’s top 10 movie presidents.)
The NIH parallels Douglas’ sentiments, noting that 90% of throat cancers are curable if detected early. Those percentages remain high if the tumor cells fail to metastasize.
For more on Douglas and his wife Catherine Zeta-Jones’ partnership in dealing with the treatment, check out a preview of this week’s People cover story. (See Michael Douglas in TIME’s top 10 expensive haircuts.)