A 'Gift' Was Entangled in Chris Evert's Grief

Because Jeanne Evert Dubin had BRCA1 variant, the tennis legend got tested
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 18, 2023 9:25 AM CST
Chris Evert Explains How Sister's Cancer Saved Her Life
Chris Evert, left, and Martina Navratilova joke with a police officer at Wimbledon in London on July 4, 1985.   (AP Photo/Dave Caulkin, File)

Tennis legend Chris Evert on Tuesday announced she has beat the cancer that killed her younger sister in 2020. In a piece for ESPN, Evert recounts what led up to her discovery of stage 1 ovarian cancer a year ago. She writes that her sister, Jeanne Evert Dubin, underwent genetic testing that showed she had a BRCA1 variant whose significance was "uncertain"; in November 2021, the BRCA variant was determined to be "very clearly pathogenic." A blood test confirmed Evert had it, which led her to schedule a preventive hysterectomy. Then came the shock: A pathology report identified malignant cells and a tumor in her left fallopian tube.

"It is only because of the genetic road map my sister left behind and the power of scientific progress that we caught my cancer early enough to do something about it," Evert writes. "My doctor said if left undiscovered, in four months' time I would probably have been stage 3 like Jeanne, with very few options." Instead, she says she is now cancer-free, and doctors estimate the chances it will return are just 10%. But her journey didn't end there. Knowing that "BRCA mutations are associated with an up to 75% risk of developing breast cancer," she reveals that on Dec. 1, exactly a year after her hysterectomy, she had a double mastectomy. No cancer was detected.

"When it comes to deciding between surveillance or surgery, everyone's choice is personal," Evert writes. "The most important thing is not to leave things to chance. Of the 25 million women and men worldwide who have a BRCA mutation, only 10% know they are carriers. When I talk to people about genetic testing, so many people say, 'It's too scary to know.' I'm here to tell you, it's scarier not to. ... As relieved as I will be to get to the other side of this, I will always have a heavy heart. I will never heal from losing Jeanne, and I will never take for granted the gift she gave me in the process. My sister's journey saved my life, and I hope by sharing mine, I just might save somebody else's." Read Evert's essay in full here. (More Chris Evert stories.)

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