Stage 4 Throat Cancer: What’s the Prognosis for Michael Douglas?

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REUTERS/Gary Hershorn

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.)