Born at the very tail end of the Baby Boomer generation, Martina Navratilova has become one of the LGBT community’s most outspoken advocates for health and equality.
On April 7, the international tennis star spoke to several news outlets and said she was diagnosed with a non-invasive form of breast cancer. She said her prognosis was good, after learning of the diagnosis after a routine mammogram in February.
Navratilova, 53, who now works as a spokesperson for AARP, said the news shocked her.
“It knocked me off my ass, really,” she told People magazine. “I feel so in control of my life and my body, and then this comes, and it’s completely out of my hands.”
The cancer, ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), is the most common form of largely non-lethal breast cancer. Nearly 70,000 or more women are diagnosed with the cancer each year.
“The good thing for [Navratilova] is that she doesn’t have what’s called an invasive breast cancer, meaning that the cancer invades into the tissue,” Victoria Seewaldt, a Duke University professor of medicine and breast and ovarian program leader for the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Institute, told Bloomberg News.
“While nobody wants to get a diagnosis of DCIS — and it’s treated very seriously as cells that have potential to become cancerous — this is a really good prognosis,” Seewaldt said. “Most of the time, women who have DCIS do really well and are typically cured.”
Navratilova was born in Prague but joined American tennis in 1975. She became a U.S. citizen and came out in 1981.
It is commonly thought lesbians are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer and some research points to increased risks of anal cancer in men who have sex with men. In a late March release, however, the American Cancer Society said more research is needed.
“Unfortunately, cancer research in the LGBT population is rarely conducted or published,” the organization said. “Perhaps due to the lack of focus on cancer in the LGBT community, awareness of the risks of cancer within this population is surprisingly low.” : :