Had enough of 2021? Shannon Miller invites you to 1996 to re-live the thrill of the U.S. gymnastics team’s history-making victory over Russia in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome. Miller, who went on to claim victory over ovarian cancer in 2011, joins team captain, Amanda Borden, for a re-broadcast of that electrifying night Friday on NBC Sports Network.Read More
holds 7 Olympic medals. A mother of two, she now heads her own company, Shannon Miller Lifestyle, which promotes women’s health. Nicknamed “The Magnificent Seven” her team became “role models for the next generation. People look back on us and they smile,” she
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Join me and @amandakborden as we throw it back to the summer of 1996!! Our 1996 Team Captain ????????????joins me on IG Live @shannonmiller96 this Friday 4/24 at 8pm ET @nbcolympics (NBC Sports Network) We’ll share all the behind the scenes memories, emotions and real time thoughts of the competition as we both view the complete coverage for the first time!!! #olympics #teamusa #gymnastics
says. Catch competition highlights on Miller’s Instagram.
Cancer Will “Humble You Real Quick”
In an interview with SurvivorNet, Miller said she was just 33 when she was diagnosed with germ cell ovarian cancer in 2011. Germ cell tumors are more likely to impact a single ovary and are more likely to occur in younger women. About 90% of these cases can be cured while preserving a woman’s fertility.
As a gymnast, she said, she didn’t have to pay attention to major health risks the way she does now. “I don’t know if I took my health for granted. I’m just not sure I ever really thought about it that much,” she says, “Everyone else was thinking about it. My coaches, obviously,
were focused on health, my parents made sure the nutrition was there, I got plenty of physical activity in the gym, and my parents got me to doctors’ appointments,” she recalls.
“I might have been worried about injuries, but I wasn’t worried about things that were truly life-threatening,” Miller says. Coming to terms with a cancer diagnosis was a shock, she says, “that’ll humble you real quick.”
“If It Can Happen To You”
When Miller first decided to go public with her illness, she felt empowered: “I came from a shy background. I would hardly speak during my [gymnastics] training. But I realized, you know what? I’ll go around and talk about my ovaries all day long, if it makes even one person think, ‘yep, I’m going to go to the doctor. I’m going to focus on my health.’ Then it is all worth it,” she told SurvivorNet.
“[I got] a letter from a mom from Texas with three kids,” Miller added. “She had cheered for me at the Olympics. She always got her kids to their doctors’ appointments, but couldn’t remember the last time she went,” she said. “And, I’ll never forget this, she said: ‘But if it can happen to you, it can happen to me. I’m going to make my appointment.'”
Miller says the woman’s letter still has the power to bring her to tears.
Screening for ovarian cancer?
Despite ovarian cancer’s reputation for being a devastating disease, when detected early enough, the disease has a better than 90% cure rate. The problem: it’s not an easy disease to diagnose, especially in its nascent stages, so only 20% of cases are caught early on.
Dr. Beth Karlan calls screening for ovarian cancer, “the holy grail.” Symptoms of the disease, like abdominal bloating, are subtle.
Dr. Beth Karlan, a gynecologic oncologist at UCLA Medical Center, says, “In certain high-risk women, who have either inherited a defect in a gene called BRCA1 or 2 or other associated genes with hereditary ovarian cancer, you should undergo an ultrasound of the pelvis—transvaginal ultrasound—and a CA-125, [a blood test] because it’s the best we have at the current time.”
But these tests are only routinely available for women with the aforementioned family histories of cancer, inherited genetic conditions like Lynch syndrome (which is a form of colorectal cancer) and/or women presenting with recurring symptoms of the disease.
In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, low-risk women may be better off skipping screening if they aren’t experiencing symptoms. “In studies of women at average risk of ovarian cancer, using TVUS [transvaginal ultrasound] and CA-125 [blood test] for screening led to more testing and sometimes more surgeries, but did not lower the number of deaths caused by ovarian cancer.” And so for that reason, they don’t recommend routine testing.
So while there’s no widespread screening method currently available, researchers are working hard to find one. As Dr. Karlan says, “finding an early detection method for ovarian cancer is really like the holy grail.”