A 26-Year-Old Tennis Star Was Diagnosed with a Rare Form of Mouth Cancer
Nicole Gibbs is pulling out of the French Open to undergo surgery.
If you don't know Nicole Gibbs, she is a force to be reckoned with on the tennis court. The 26-year-old athlete holds the NCAA singles and team titles at Stanford, and she's reached the third rounds at both the 2014 U.S. Open and the 2017 Australian Open.
She's been a fan-favorite for the upcoming French Open, but Gibbs recently announced that she will be pulling out of the tournament after learning she has salivary gland cancer.
The athlete took to Twitter to share that she learned about her diagnosis from a routine appointment with her dentist last month. (Related: Doctors Ignored My Symptoms for Three Years Before I Was Diagnosed with Stage 4 Lymphoma)
"About a month ago, I went to the dentist and was alerted to a growth on the roof of my mouth," she wrote. "The biopsy came back positive for a rare cancer called mucoepidermoid carcinoma (salivary gland cancer)."
Salivary gland cancer makes up less than 1 percent of all cancer diagnoses in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. Thankfully, mucoepidermoid carcinomas are the most common type of salivary gland cancer and are usually low grade and treatable—as is the case for Gibbs. (Related: 5 Ways Your Teeth Can Impact Your Health)
"Fortunately, this form of cancer has a great prognosis and my surgeon is confident that surgery alone will be sufficient treatment," wrote Gibbs. "He even okayed me to play an extra couple of tournaments these past few weeks, which served as a nice distraction.”
The tennis star will be undergoing surgery on Friday to have her tumor removed and is expected to make a full recovery. (Related: This Cancer Survivor's Fitness Transformation Is the Only Inspiration You Need)
"We are told to expect a 4-6 week recovery period, but I will be doing everything possible to shave that down and get back to full health as soon as possible," she wrote. "I am feeling extremely grateful for the UCLA health network that’s been taking amazing care of me, and for the rock solid friends and family who are helping me every step of the way."
Most of all, Gibbs hopes that her story will remind other women to always put their health first and to be strong proponents of their own well-being. "I think it's a good reminder for self-advocacy," she told Today. "I think we tend to know if there's something that's off or wrong."
Looking ahead, Gibbs is keeping her hopes high and plans to be ready for the Wimbledon Qualifying Tournament at the end of June: "See you back on the court soon," she wrote.