Martina Navratilova – 'Get the Bloody Mammogram'

Stacy Matson | Celebrity Health
Martina Navratilova – 'Get the Bloody Mammogram'

image by: robbiesaurus

This may be an opportune time to consider replacing the controversial and imperfect 'gold standard' mammogram with a less invasive screening tool. There must be something out there!

Martina Navratilova
Martina Navratilova

Martina Navratilova is one of the greatest women's tennis players of all time. She’s won every Grand Slam singles title at least twice: Wimbledon-nine times, the Australian Open-three times, the French Open-two times, and the U.S. Open-four times.

She retired from professional tennis at the height of her career in 1994, but returned in 2000 to compete in mixed doubles and the women's doubles events. She later won the Australian Open mixed doubles title in 2003 along with her partner Leander Paes, making her the second woman ever to win the singles, doubles and mixed doubles at all four grand slam tournaments. Wow!

On the tennis court Navratilova is unbeatable. However, the tennis legend may be up against her most formidable opponent yet. On April 7th Navratilova announced that she has breast cancer.  Her cancer was discovered during a routine mammogram in January.  A biopsy the following month determined that she had ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS.

DCIS is one of the earliest and most common forms of breast cancer - nearly 1 in 4 new breast cancers diagnosed in the United States is DCIS. It is sometimes referred to as Stage 0 or pre-cancer. DCIS is a result of abnormal cells that multiply and form a growth within the milk ducts in the breast. DCIS is noninvasive, meaning it is confined to the milk ducts and has not spread to other parts of the breast. The survival rate for DCIS ranges from 95-100% however, if left untreated DCIS can become invasive and spread to surrounding tissues.

Although Navratilova’s prognosis is good, the 53 year-old health and fitness buff was shocked when she heard her diagnosis, “I'm this healthy person, I've been healthy all my life, and all of a sudden I have cancer.” Navratilova calls her diagnosis a “wakeup call” because no matter how healthy she thought she was – eating right and lots of physical activity – she was not immune to cancer. At first, she didn't want to reveal her diagnosis. But since a mammogram saved her life, Navratilova realized she had to speak out.

Navratilova admits her healthy lifestyle created a false sense of security when it came to following through with her yearly checkup and mammogram.  "I went four years between mammograms," she said. "I let it slide. Everyone gets busy, but don't make excuses. I stay in shape and eat right, and it happened to me. It can happen to anyone.” Navratilova is taking her situation very seriously and wants other women to take notice. She says, “Preventative steps can make just as much, or in some cases more, of a difference. Getting my mammogram literally saved my life".

Hmmm….Interesting…  Remember back in November when the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended that women wait to get their first mammogram at 50 and then follow-ups every other year after that? Then the American Cancer Society countered that breast cancer screening recommendations for women should remain as is,  first mammogram at 40 and follow-ups yearly. 

Confusing…yes! So Navratilova is using her position as AARP’s Health and Fitness Advisor to push for earlier (40’s) mammograms because she knows firsthand they save lives. She says, "I just want to encourage women to have that yearly check-up because without it I would be in serious trouble."

Obviously, scientists and advocacy groups cannot agree on which way to go. In the meantime, here are some tips from HealthWorldNet's health report Cancer Screening: Life-Savers or Expensive Luxury? as well as:  

USPSTF's advise: "The decision to start regular, biennial screening mammography before the age of 50 years should be an individual one and take into account patient context, including the patient's values regarding specific benefits and harms.”

NBCC’s advice: "Women who have symptoms of breast cancer such as a lump, pain or nipple discharge should seek a diagnostic mammogram. The decision to undergo screening must be made on an individual level based on a woman's personal preferences, family history and risk factors."

Today, Navratilova is feeling well, but is not quite finished with her treatments. Her doctors chose a typical course of therapy - a lumpectomy to remove the tissue followed by 6 weeks of radiation. She will begin her radiation therapy next month in Paris while she continues her work as a sports commentator for the Tennis Channel at the French Open. "My life has not changed other than I have to be in one place for six weeks to sit through radiation," she said. "I still play hockey and I am playing tennis this weekend.”  She said she also plans to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa this December. Something tells me that cancer may have met its match! 

And don't forget Navratilova's advice, "Get the bloody mammogram...the sooner you catch it, the better".

Stacy Matson is a health enthusiast from Southern California and regularly blogs on Celebrity Health for A Healthier World, as well as contributing to the Best of the Best.

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