Tennis Great Martina Navratilova Diagnosed with Breast Cancer

Woman’s tennis great, Martina Navratilova, 53, announced on Good Morning America and in People magazine, that she is undergoing treatment for breast cancer. The nine-time Wimbledon singles champion, who holds more singles and doubles titles than anyone in history,says that her cancer was detected on a routine mammogram in January. Her diagnosis, called ductal carcinoma in Situ (DCIS), is fortunately a common form of non-invasive cancer, sometimes referred to as Stage O breast cancer, or precancer. She has already undergone lumpectomy, and will receive 6 weeks of radiation therapy. Her prognosis is good, and she reports that she has not curtailed any of her activities since the diagnosis.

According to USA Today:

“Navratilova said she first intended to keep the news quiet but changed her mind when she thought of other women who might face a direr situation by skipping a routine mammogram.  ‘The sooner you catch it, the better,’ she said. Despite recent medical controversy [a topic we have covered] about when and how often to submit to mammography screening, Navratilova had this advice: ‘Get the bloody mammogram.’ “

What is Ductal Carcinoma in Situ?

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is the most common type of non-invasive breast cancer. Ductal means that the cancer starts inside the milk ducts; in situ Latin for “in its original place” means it has not spread through or beyond the duct. Simply put, DCIS is a group of abnormal cells (cancer cells) in a milk duct that remains limited to the duct. In some cases, DCIS may become invasive cancer and spread to other tissues, although it is not known at this time how to predict which lesions will become invasive.

According to the American Cancer Society, about 60,000 cases of DCIS are diagnosed in the United States each year, accounting for about 1 out of every 5 new breast cancer cases. Very few cases of DCIS present as a palpable mass; 80% are diagnosed by mammography alone.

Women with DCIS are at higher risk for the cancer coming back or for developing a new breast cancer than a person who has never had breast cancer before. Most recurrences happen within the first  5 to 10 years after initial diagnosis.  Women who have a lumpectomy for DCIS without radiation therapy have about a 25% to 30% chance of having a recurrence at some point in the future. Including radiation therapy in the treatment plan after surgery drops the risk of recurrence to about 15%.

For more information:

Ductal Carcinoma in Situ
Mark Boguski, M.D., Ph.D. is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and is a member of the Society for Participatory Medicine, "a movement in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health" and in which professional health care providers encourage "empowered patients" and value them as full partners in managing their health and wellness.

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