Chris Evert Reveals Stage 1C Cancer Diagnosis—Here's What That Means

Tennis legend Chris Evert shared in January 2022 that she had ovarian cancer. Evert's cancer was found following a preventive hysterectomy. Her sister, Jeanne Evert Dubin, died of the same disease in February 2020.

Evert 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.

But since Dubin's diagnosis, genetic testing has evolved, and her variant in BRCA1 has been linked to an increased risk of ovarian cancer. So, in October 2021, the Evert family got a phone call to tell them of the news.

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

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, 2021, and then had to wait to see the results. She said this was "the longest three days of my life."

Evert was diagnosed with stage 1C ovarian cancer, and there is a greater than 90% chance that her cancer will never return after her chemotherapy which she completed in May 2022, according to PBS.

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

What Is Ovarian Cancer?

Ovarian cancer is cancer of the ovaries, which are reproductive glands that produce eggs.

Ovarian cancer is often deadly. Ovarian cancer is the fifth most deadly cancer in women and causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system.

This is because 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., told 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 said. As a rule, the lower the number, the less cancer has spread.

"There are a lot of nuances to the staging of ovarian cancer, which includes staging A, B, and C based on the ovaries involved," Dr. Jacoub added.

Stage 1A means that only one ovary is involved, and the cancer is inside that ovary. Stage 1B involves both ovaries, but the cancer is not on the outer surfaces.

Meanwhile, stage 1C means that the cancer is in one or both ovaries, and the cancer is on the outer surface of those areas, the tissue surrounding the tumor has broken, or cancer cells were found in the fluid in the abdomen and pelvis.

Genetic Testing and Family History of Cancer

Genetic testing is usually available for people with a close family relative (like a parent or sibling) with certain types of cancer, Robert Wenham, MD, chair of the department of gynecologic oncology at Moffitt Cancer Center, told Health.

"The risk of having an inherited predisposition for cancer does depend upon the type of cancer," Dr. Wenham said. "It should be stressed that most cancers are sporadic, meaning they develop without a known genetic predisposition."

However, Dr. Wenham said, some genetic mutations that can lead to cancer are inherited, raising 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 said, and this can help dictate the next steps for family members.)

In general, "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, told Health.

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

Preventive Hysterectomies for Ovarian Cancer

Both tubal ligation (a surgical procedure where your doctor cuts or blocks your fallopian tubes, which connect your ovaries to your uterus) and hysterectomies may reduce the risk of having ovarian cancer.

The ACS states that these surgeries should generally not be performed for the sole purpose of reducing one's ovarian cancer risk. However, doctors may still recommend it if you have a significant risk of developing ovarian cancer, Dr. Jacoub said.

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

Treatment Options for Stage 1C Ovarian Cancer

Treatment usually involves surgery to remove the tumor, uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. The substage of cancer usually dictates the next steps. In the case of stage 1C, chemotherapy is generally recommended, with three to six cycles involving chemotherapy drugs carboplatin and paclitaxel.

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  1. American Cancer Society. Key Statistics for Ovarian Cancer.

  2. American Cancer Society. Ovarian Cancer Stages.

  3. American Cancer Society. Treatment of Invasive Epithelial Ovarian Cancers, by Stage.

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