Tennis Star Chris Evert Reveals Stage 1C Cancer Diagnosis—What That Means

Evert's cancer was found following a preventive hysterectomy. Her sister, Jeanne Evert Dubin, died of the same disease in February 2020.

Tennis legend Chris Evert shared surprising news late last week: She has ovarian cancer.

Evert, 67, made the revelation in an ESPN story written with her friend, Chris McKendry. Evert followed up the story's publication with a tweet on her diagnosis, writing, "I wanted to share my stage 1 ovarian cancer diagnosis and the story behind it as a way to help others. I feel very lucky that they caught it early [and] expect positive results from my chemo plan."

In the story, Evert revealed that she underwent genetic testing after her sister, Jeanne Evert Dubin, died of ovarian cancer. Dubin was given genetic testing after her diagnosis and tested negative for harmful variants of the BRCA1 gene, which can be a marker for risk for certain cancers, including ovarian cancer. As a result, her family members weren't encouraged to get tested as well.

But since Dubin's diagnosis, genetic testing has evolved and the variant in BRCA1 that she had has now been linked to an increased risk of ovarian cancer. So, in October, the Evert family got a phone call to tell them of the change.

That prompted Evert to get tested, which led to her discovering that she had the same variant of the BRCA1 gene as her sister. She scheduled a preventive hysterectomy, where the uterus is removed, in early December.

But Evert said that the pathology after her surgery found that she had cancerous cells and a tumor that started in her left fallopian tube. She had another operation on December 13 and then had to wait to see what the results would be. This, she said, was "the longest three days of my life."

Evert was diagnosed with stage 1C ovarian cancer and, the story notes, there is a great than 90% chance that her cancer will never return after she has chemotherapy.

It's understandable to have some questions about ovarian cancer after seeing this. Doctors break it all down.

What is ovarian cancer, again?

Ovarian cancer is cancer of the ovaries, and reproductive glands in women that produce eggs, the American Cancer Society (ACS) explains.

Ovarian cancer is often deadly. In 2022, it's estimated that about 19,880 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer and about 12,810 women will die of the disease, per the ACS. Ovarian cancer is the fifth most deadly cancer in women and causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system.

The reason for this is that ovarian cancer is usually detected at more advanced stages, Jack Jacoub, MD, medical oncologist and medical director of MemorialCare Cancer Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, Calif., tells Health.

What is stage 1C ovarian cancer?

It's common for cancer to be given stages one through four, but ovarian cancer is slightly different, Dr. Jacoub says. (As a rule, the lower the number, the less cancer has spread, the ACS explains.)

"There are a lot of nuances to the staging of ovarian cancer, and that includes staging A, B, and C based on the ovaries involved," he says.

Stage 1A means that only one ovary is involved and the cancer is inside that ovary or fallopian tube, the ACS explains. Stage 1B involves both ovaries or fallopian tubes but the cancer is not on the outer surfaces. And stage 1C means that the cancer is in one or both ovaries or fallopian tubes, cancer is on the outer surface of those areas, and cancer cells were found in the fluid in the abdomen and pelvis.

Is genetic testing common for someone with a family history of cancer?

Genetic testing is usually available for people with a close family relative (like a mom or sister) with certain types of cancer, Robert Wenham, MD, chair of the department of gynecologic oncology at Moffitt Cancer Center, tells Health. "The risk of having an inherited predisposition for cancer does depend upon the type of cancer," he says. "It should be stressed that most cancers are sporadic, meaning they develop without a known genetic predisposition."

However, he says, some genetic mutations that can lead to cancer are inherited and that raises a person's risk of cancer. (Cancer patients are often given genetic testing to help determine if genes were a factor in their cancer, Dr. Jacoub says, and this can help dictate the next steps for family members.)

In general, though, "patients with a concerning family history of cancer should be referred to a genetic counselor for elucidation of their family history and consideration of testing," Stephen C. Rubin, MD, professor in the Department of Surgical Oncology at Fox Chase Cancer Center, tells Health.

This is especially important with ovarian cancer, Dr. Wenham says. "For ovarian cancer, approximately one in five will have an inherited predisposition," he points out.

Are preventive hysterectomies often done if you have an increased risk of ovarian cancer?

Both tubal ligation (a surgical procedure where your doctor cuts or blocks your fallopian tubes) and hysterectomies may reduce the risk of having ovarian cancer, the ACS says. Doctors may recommend this when you have a strong risk of developing ovarian cancer, Dr. Jacoub says.

When this procedure is done, the organs and fluid in the pelvis and abdomen will be tested for the presence of cancer, he says. "A small proportion of patients undergoing preventive surgery will have cancer found, usually in an early stage," Dr. Rubin says.

What are the treatment options for stage 1C ovarian cancer?

Treatment usually involves surgery to remove the tumor, along with the uterus, both fallopian tubes, and both ovaries, the ACS says.

The substage of cancer usually dictates the next steps. In the case of stage 1C, chemotherapy is usually recommended, with three to six cycles of chemotherapy drugs carboplatin and paclitaxel, the ACS says.

Evert, who just started chemotherapy, says she's nervous about the process. "As someone who has always had control over my life, I have no idea how I'll respond to chemotherapy," she told ESPN. "I have to give in to something higher."

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles