Saturday, October 2, 2021

October’s Arrived, So I’m on My Soapbox


I didn’t know how I was going to write about Breast Cancer Awareness Month this year, and then I saw this message on Facebook, posted by a guy I knew in high school:

Lost my mother, grandmother (and both her sisters) and great grandmother to breast cancer. I get checked every year by my doctor.

I immediately sent him a private message: “Have you had genetic testing for BRCA and other mutations?”

Guy: “My brother has since he had daughters. Was negative. But he and I are vastly diff makeups. He’s def from my father’s DNA. And I’m sure I’m more my mother’s. Never got tested since I only had boys.”

I couldn’t have asked for a better set-up!

Me: “You should consider consulting with a genetic counselor because men, not only women, can pass mutations on to their children. So, if you carry a hereditary cancer mutation, each of your sons has a 50% chance of carrying it—and a 50% chance of passing it on to their own kids, both sons and daughters. Happy to discuss further if that would be helpful. I’ve learned all of this the hard way, and I work hard to make sure other families don’t have the experiences that mine did. Also, some of these mutations are much more prevalent among Ashkenazi Jews than they are in the general population. I’ll also butt out if you think this is none of my business.” 

Guy: “I appreciate it! I will pursue it further.”

Me: “Excellent! Please keep me posted.”  

If, in fact, Guy or either of his sons turns out to be a BRCA mutation carrier (pfth, pfth, pfth), they’re at increased risk of male breast cancer, prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, and melanoma. So, I hope he follows through, gets genetic counseling, and does whatever might be necessary to protect his own health and that of his sons.

To learn more about hereditary cancer, visit FORCE: Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered, a national non-profit organization solely devoted to providing resources and support to the hereditary cancer community. To find a genetic counselor in your area, visit the National Society of Genetic Counselors. Visit to learn how you can test for hereditary cancer mutations from home and consult with a genetic counselor about the results.