Tennis great Navratilova being treated for breast cancer
Martina Navratilova, the pioneering paragon of fitness who played competitively on the women's pro tour until nearly 50, is being treated for breast cancer.
"It was a total shock because I've been so healthy," Navratilova told USA TODAY in a phone call from New York Tuesday evening.
Navratilova said that the cancer in her left breast — diagnosed as ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) — was first detected during a mammogram in early January.
DCIS is the most common type of non-invasive breast cancer and is sometimes referred to as Stage 0 or precancer.
Though DCIS is hardly ever life-threatening, it carries an increased risk of invasive cancer down the road.
Navratilova partly blames herself for allowing four years to pass between mammogram screenings.
"I let it slip by," said the nine-time Wimbledon singles champion, who holds more singles (167) and doubles (177) titles than anyone in history. "I was a bad girl."
(Navratilova will participate in a live chat at aarp.org on Thursday. For information, click here.)
On March 15, the Prague-born American underwent a lumpectomy to remove cancerous tissue and will go through 4-6 weeks of radiation treatment starting in May. She hopes to begin the treatment in Paris so she can continue her commentary duties with Tennis Channel during the French Open.
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 about when and how often to submit to mammography screening, Navratilova had this advice: "Get the bloody mammogram."
The 18-time Grand Slam singles winner said her first thoughts after the diagnosis were not about death but disfigurement.
"I thought, 'I'm going to lose my boob and then my hair, and I don't have that much," she laughed.
She emphasized that she is cancer-free and has not curbed her activities since the discovery.
She participated in last month's "Hit for Haiti" fundraiser at Indian Wells, Calif., two days before her lumpectomy. She also recently competed in a 25-mile bike portion of a triathlon race in Hawaii.
"There's a good chance it won't come back," Navratilova said, adding that her radiation treatment would "lower the risk."
"The bad news is it's cancer," she summed up. "The good news is that it hasn't spread."