Treating Two Cancers Concurrently
- Nine-time Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova has been diagnosed with throat and breast cancers; she previously battled breast cancer in 2010.
- In 2010, the tennis star was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), a noninvasive form of breast cancer; DCIS means abnormal cells can be found in the breast milk duct and have become cancerous but have not yet metastasized – or spread – to other parts of the body. She treated it with a lumpectomy.
- This month, Navratilova will undergo treatment for her breast and throat cancers; the throat cancer was detected after she found a lump in her neck, and further tests revealed the presence of breast cancer. Both of her cancers were detected at an early stage, making them potentially more treatable.
- Having a “secondary cancer,” like Navratilova, means that the cancer has spread from where it started to another part of the body. A secondary cancer is typically the same type of cancer as the primary cancer; the cancer cells are the same in each location, they are just in another part of the body.
- Breast cancer treatment options vary and depend upon the stage of the breast at the time of diagnosis. Surgery is a common treatment path for breast cancer when it’s in an earlier stage. Surgical treatments for breast cancer include a mastectomy, lumpectomy, tissue expansion, mammaplasty, and lymph node dissection. Other treatments include hormone therapy, chemotherapy, and radiation.
Having a “secondary cancer,” like Navratilova, means that the cancer has spread from where it started to another part of the body. A secondary cancer is typically the same type of cancer as the primary cancer – meaning, the cancer cells are the same in each location, they are just in another part of the body.Read More
Navratilova’s 2010 Breast Cancer Battle
In 2010, Navratilova was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), a noninvasive form of breast cancer. It was detected via mammogram, the screening method for breast cancer that looks for lumps and early signs of cancer in the body.
In April of that year, the tennis champ went public with her health battle, shining a light on the importance of screening for breast cancer and getting mammograms. Women aged 45 to 54 with an average risk of breast cancer should get mammograms annually. (For women with a family history of the disease, you should begin screening earlier.) Speak with your doctor to schedule one if you’re overdue for your mammogram.
When a person has DCIS, stage zero cancer, it means abnormal cells can be found in the breast milk duct and have become cancerous but have not yet metastasized – or spread – to other parts of the body. Navratilova’s cancer was removed via a lumpectomy, and she underwent radiation to treat her cancer as well.
Throat Cancer Treatment Options
The BBC reports that Navratilova observed one of the lymph nodes in her neck was enlarged. She observed this during the WTA Finals in Fort Worth, Texas in November. As a result, the tennis star underwent tests, which showed she had stage one throat cancer.
The two main causes of throat cancer are smoking and excessive drinking, but throat cancer can also be caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).
Dr. Ted Teknos, president and scientific director of the Seidman Cancer Center at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, says in a previous interview, “When I first started training and practicing head and neck surgery, we saw this group of patients that were becoming increasingly more frequent, who were those patients who never smoked, were not drinkers, and were developing head and neck cancer. And in the beginning part of my career in the early ’90s and mid-90s, those were rare patients, but then, year by year, those numbers increased dramatically.”
“What we know now, through science, is going back and looking, decade by decade, the rates of HPV-related head and neck cancer have increased exponentially,” says Dr. Teknos. “If you look at the percentage of patients who developed throat cancer, really, cancer of the tonsils and the base of the tongue, in the ’80s compared to the 2010s, if you will, the rate of HPV-related head and neck cancers has gone up by 300%. So there is no myth. HPV causes throat cancer, and it’s a sexually transmitted disease. And it’s something that is an epidemic in the United States.”
Treatment for throat cancer can include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Navratilova has not publically shared her specific treatment path.
What is a Secondary Cancer?
A secondary cancer is a cancer in two parts of the body that has the same cancer cells. Dr. Janice Kim, a radiation oncologist and the disease site lead for breast cancer at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, speaks to secondary cancer risk – and radiation – in an earlier interview with SurvivorNet.
Dr. Kim says, “I think long-term side effects to your heart, your lungs, your ribs, those are all very important things [when it comes to radiation].” She continues, “For young patients, secondary cancer risk because radiation can induce a secondary cancer. It’s not very high, but it’s there. And for a young patient who’s in their late 30s or early 40s, a secondary cancer can occur 20 to 30 years down the line and guess what that is absolutely in their lifetime.”
Breast Cancer Treatment Options
As a result of the tests that revealed throat cancer, it also showed a lump in Navratilova’s breast tissue. It was diagnosed as an unrelated cancer. Navratilova’s representative Mary Greenham says, “Both of these cancers are in their early stages with great outcomes.”
Breast cancer treatment options vary and depend upon the stage of the breast at the time of diagnosis. Surgery is a common treatment path for breast cancer when it’s in an earlier stage. Surgical treatments for breast cancer include a mastectomy, lumpectomy, tissue expansion, mammaplasty, and lymph node dissection. Other treatments include hormone therapy, chemotherapy, and radiation.
In an earlier interview with SurvivorNet, Dr. Elisa Port, the Chief of Breast Surgery at Mount Sinai, explains how the treatment path is determined. Dr. Port says, “Breast cancer is multiple different subtypes. These different subtypes can behave extremely differently, almost like different diseases.”
“We know that there’s no one size fits all and we customize and tailor treatment, both the treatments that people get and the order that they get them, based on the subtypes of cancer and a variety of different factors,” she explains.
“It’s very tailored, personalized precision medicine approach, for not only the person, but also the tumor,” Dr. Port says of treatment for this disease.