'I have breast cancer', admits Navratilova

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The Independent Online

Former tennis champion Martina Navratilova has revealed she has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Speaking to US magazine People, she said she had cried after finding out.

But the message to fans from the nine-time women's singles Wimbledon champion was upbeat, however. "I have a very small chance of it coming back," the 53-year-old said.

Doctors told Navratilova in February that she has a non-invasive form of the cancer called ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS, which means the cancer is confined to the milk ducts and has not spread to the surrounding tissue.

Even so, the early discovery during a routine mammogram exam caught the tennis star by surprise, she admitted in a candid interview with the magazine. "I cried," she acknowledged. "It knocked me off my ass, really. I feel so in control of my life and my body, and then this comes, and it's completely out of my hands."

The Prague-born former champion, who became a US citizen in 1981 and has dual US-Czech citizenship, underwent an initial lumpectomy after the cluster was found in her breast.

She is planning to begin a six-week course of radiation therapy in May.

The magazine quoted cancer experts as agreeing that her chances of recovery were good because it was caught early.

"The prognosis of someone with DCIS is excellent," People cited Dr Shelley Hwang, a breast surgeon at the University of California, San Francisco, as saying. "There's only a one per cent chance that anyone with this diagnosis would die of breast cancer."

Navratilova's own doctor, Mindy Nagle, added: "It was the best-case scenario you could imagine for detecting breast cancer."

Navratilova, who lives in Sarasota in Florida, admitted, however, that as a woman who exercises regularly and eats well she had been remiss about getting regular check-ups, adding that she had gone four years without having a mammogram.

"I let it slide," she confessed. "Everyone gets busy, but don't make excuses. I stay in shape and eat right, and it happened to me. Another year and I could have been in big trouble."

Navratilova, who won 18 Grand Slam singles titles in a career spanning three decades, still plays tennis and competes in triathlons. She won seven doubles and four mixed doubles titles at Wimbledon in addition to her singles crowns. She played her last official competition match at Wimbledon in 2006.