TODAY   |  September 01, 2010

Douglas optimistic about beating cancer

Actor Michael Douglas, 65, told “Late Show” host David Letterman that he finished his first week of radiation and chemo and that the expectation of beating throat cancer “is good.” NBC’s Miguel Almaguer reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> first let's begin with michael douglas and his fight against throat cancer . last night he shocked late-night tv viewers by admitting that the cancer that he is now fighting is stage 4. but douglas is confident he can beat it.

>> reporter: michael douglas looked a bit thinner than the stoic actor we have come to know, but was upbeat on the show with david letterman . just weeks ago, douglas learned of his diagnosis, throat cancer .

>> i finished my first week of radiation and chemo.

>> you have never looked better to me, this proves that you're a tough guy.

>> the tone on the late show was light.

>> i found out about it three weeks ago. i said, gee, just when i found out i was going to be on your show.

>> reporter: but the subject matter was serious.

>> you don't sound like you have throat cancer . why is that?

>> because i'm on stage.

>> reporter: douglas says his cancer was caused by years of smoking and drinking, but he likes his odds, he says there's a big chance for a full recovery. married to katharine zeta jones , he has had one of the most storied careers in history. his son cameron was sentenced to five years on drug charges.

>> i once said greed is good. why don't you start calling me gordon.

>> reporter: and just as his " wall street " sequel hits the big screen , his wife is suing him for 50% of his earnings from the movie.

>> this is nbc "nightly news" with brian williams .

>> reporter: he's suffering from a cancer that could cripple one of his trademarks that makes him so recognizable.

>> this is the first week of the chemo and the radiation, the radiation continues to burn your mouth.

>> did they find it early enough for your liking?

>> i certainly hope so.

>> i feel like i want to do something for you. can i do something for you?

>> give me a hug.

>> all right, by god.

>> reporter: letterman gave him a hug, the audience gave him a standing oaf yags. ovation.

>> as we said before, we're