Tennis legend Chris Evert recently revealed that she is being treated for an early stage of ovarian cancer. The 67-year-old said she learned of the cancer last month after undergoing a preventive hysterectomy.
Evert’s beloved sister, Jeanne Evert Dubin, died from ovarian cancer in February 2020 at age 62. After genetic testing revealed she, too, was at risk, Evert underwent a hysterectomy in hopes of preventing the disease but found out she actually had early-stage ovarian cancer. She is now undergoing chemotherapy to treat it.
“I’ve lived a very charmed life,” Evert said in a story posted Friday on ESPN.com. “Now I have challenges ahead of me. But I have comfort in knowing the chemotherapy is to ensure that cancer does not come back.”
Evert won 18 Grand Slam singles titles, reached No. 1 in the Women’s Tennis Association ranking, and was inducted into the International Hall of Fame in 1995. Her competitive, proactive nature led her to discover cancer at stage 1C which experts say is “highly curable.”
Evert learned that she shared the pathogenic BRAC1 gene variant that her sister had, which increases the risk for ovarian and breast cancer. She scheduled a preventative hysterectomy and the pathology report revealed that she had a malignant tumor on the her fallopian tube, according to Fox News. During the ESPN interview, Evert explained that at the time of Jeanne’s advanced cancer diagnosis, the Evert family members were not urged to get tested, but as genetic testing has evolved, medical experts are more aware of the BRAC1 gene variant’s linked to cancer. The BRAC1 mutation is associated with a 40% increased risk of ovarian cancer.
Evert’s quick action was lifesaving, say experts, and not common.
“She did exactly the right thing,” Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, a clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the Yale University School of Medicine, tells Newsmax. Minkin, the founder of Madame Ovary, a web site devoted to women tackling the topics of cancer and menopause adds that having the risk-reducing surgery caught the tumor in its earliest stages.
“Younger women of child-bearing age may want to adopt a watchful waiting pattern until they have children and then have a hysterectomy,” the expert explained. “Or, they may choose to harvest their eggs.”
Dr. Herman Kattlove, former spokesperson for the American Cancer Society, told Newsmax it was a blessing that she caught the cancer so early.
“You bet it is,” he said. “Most of the time the cancer is widespread, stage 3 or 4. She is stage 1 and totally curable.”
Dr. Stephanie V. Blank told Fox News that knowing your family’s history can allow you to prevent cancer and save your life. “If you have a notable family history, get genetic testing and act on positive results. You can greatly reduce ovarian cancer risk by removing the tubes and the ovaries.”
Blank explained that there are no effective early detection tests for ovarian cancer, so most cases are diagnosed after they’ve already spread.
“Early-stage ovarian cancer has a much better prognosis and is usually cured,” Blank said. She added that the disease has no distinct symptoms although bloating, pelvic pain, urinary frequency and having difficulty eating are common signs.
“But everyone has these at some point, and attribute the issues to something else,” she said, adding that one of the most important things a woman can do if they suspect they have ovarian cancer is to seek medical advice form a gynecologic oncologist who is up to date on the classification of gene variants.
Minkin says that it is equally important to schedule surgery at a facility that has experience in ovarian cancer and has an excellent pathology department.
Evert offered sage advice on her Twitter account, “Be your own advocate. Know your family’s history. Have total awareness of your body, follow your gut and be aware of changes. Don’t try to be a crusader and think this shall pass.”
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