Martina’s breast cancer shock

By admin
16 November 2010

She was the epitome of good health, a trim athlete who dominated the international tennis circuit for three decades, ate nutritiously, never smoked and hardly drank.

So it came as a shock when nine-time Wimbledon singles champion Martina Navratilova (53) recently announced she had breast cancer.

Even the Czech-born sports legend was taken aback. “Throughout my decades-long career I’ve faced some really tough opponents across the net - Steffi Graf, Monica Seles, even the Williams sisters in doubles. What I never anticipated was my toughest opponent would be off the court - cancer.”

Martina is one of more than a million women across the globe who are diagnosed with breast cancer every year; 8 000 of them are South African. It’s the most common cancer in women and the one that leads to most cancer deaths among women.

Experts say early detection is key to effective treatment and curing the disease. Martina’s case illustrates this. The tennis ace hadn’t had a mammogram in four years when a check-up in January revealed a cancerous tumour.

“Get the bloody mammogram. Everyone gets busy but don’t make excuses. Had I left it for another year I could have been in big trouble,” Martina urges.

As people around the world keep fingers crossed for Martina’s recovery we asked local experts for the lowdown on the latest about the dread disease.

RISK FACTORS

The risk of developing breast cancer is often linked to a combination of factors.

- Weight management is key in lowering your risk of cancer.

- Only five per cent of women carry the gene responsible for breast cancer in families which makes them more susceptible. Genetic testing is available but should be done only when recommended by your doctor.

- If you began menstruating before age 12 or had your first child after 30 you are more at risk.

- Women who consume more than five alcoholic drinks a day are 50 per cent more at risk than non-drinkers.

* Get the latest issue of YOU (22 April) for descriptions on the types and stages of breast cancer and advice on when to go for a mammogram.

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