Film Icon Jean Simmons dies from lung cancer

Jenny Decker RN's picture

Mid-century film icon Jean Simmons passed away Friday at her home in Santa Monica. Simmons’ agent Judy Page told Los Angeles Times that the 80 year old actress died of lung cancer. Lung cancer is considered to be one of the leading causes of cancer death in the United States in both men and women. Sadly, it is also one of the most preventable with 4 out of 5 cases associated with cigarette smoking, writes WebMD.

Jean Simmons was born in London on January 31, 1929 to Charles and Winifred Ada Simmons. She began her acting career at the age of 14 opposite Sir Laurence Olivier in “Hamlet”. She appeared in over 55 big screen movies and nearly as many in miniseries and TV appearances. Her career lasted for over 60 years and she appeared in many outstanding films including “Spartacus,” “The Robe,” and “Guys and Dolls”. Simmons was married twice and had two daughters, Tracy Granger and Kate Brooks.


Lung cancer occurs when there is an uncontrolled growth of cells in the lung tissue that is cancerous. The growth usually occurs in the spongy, pinkish gray walls of the branching airways of the lungs. There have been over 20 different types of lung cancer identified that have originated in the lung tissue itself. This is called a primary lung cancer. At least ¼ of those who have lung cancer do no develop symptoms before diagnosis. Diagnosis of lung cancer often happens by accident. A person may have a chest xray done for various reasons. This x-ray may be what first identifies the tumor. However, the other ¾ with lung cancer will develop symptoms of lung cancer, but these are often associated with the spread of cancer to other parts of the body. Cigarette smoking causes about 85% of all lung cancer. Other substances that may cause lung cancer include asbestos, silica, mineral dusts, coal dust, arsenic, and the radioactive gas radon. Jean Simmons’ agent Judy Page did not specify what caused her lung cancer.

Lung cancer affects the ability of the lungs to work effectively and can cause death. It is not known what complication Simmons had from her cancer. Symptoms of lung cancer may include a new cough, a current cough that worsens, or coughing up blood. The blood may be flecks in sputum, or it could be frank blood. Any time blood is associated with a cough, there is a real cause for concern and this should be evaluated. Chest pain occurs in about a fourth of people and it is described as a dull, aching, and persistent pain. Shortness of breath is also associated with lung cancer.

If you have any unexplained weight loss, new or worsening cough with flecks of blood in the sputum, unexplained persistent fatigue, or unexplained deep aches or pain, call your doctor. However, some symptoms require a visit to the emergency room. These symptoms include a large amount of blood being coughed up, sudden shortness of breath, sudden weakness, sudden vision problems, or persistent chest pain.