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One day in late June, he received a phone call from his father. “I have bad news,” my father began. “I’ve been having stomach pains for a few months, and when I went to the hospital to check it out, they said I had a tumor in my pancreas.” I’m a physician by profession. I knew right away that this was a serious situation. My father’s mother (my grandmother) died of pancreatic cancer in her early 70s. My father’s father and one of his brothers also died of esophageal cancer in their early fifties. When I went to the oncologist with my 73-year-old father, he was told that he had stage 4 pancreatic cancer that had spread to his liver. What the doctor said afterward shocked me. Pancreatic cancer is generally said to have a poor prognosis, but according to doctors, some patients with advanced stage pancreatic cancer can be treated for 3 to 5 years, or even 10 years, by using a new drug called a “PARP inhibitor.” Some people were said to have survived. The doctor recommended that my father undergo genetic testing. He was told that if the mutation in the BRCA gene was confirmed, he could use the drug. We all have the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2. This is a gene that suppresses the development of cancer. Mutations in either of these make a person more susceptible to cancer. It is said that 1 in 400 people have this gene mutation, but in the case of Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jews, it is said to reach 1 in 40 people. Our family is that Ashkenazi Jew. As a doctor, I knew about the BRCA gene. But I thought it had nothing to do with me. I had an image that breast cancer and uterine cancer are related to mutations in the BRCA gene, and there was no patient with breast cancer or uterine cancer in my family. When I was told that the BRCA gene might be involved in my father’s pancreatic cancer that day, I got chills down my spine. I realized that my family’s cancer history could cast a dark shadow over my future. ===== Subjective choice possible As a result of genetic testing, my father was found to have a mutation in the BRCA gene. So, in July, I also underwent a genetic test to check for mutations in the BRCA gene. A few weeks later, the test results told me that I also had the BRCA gene mutation. It may seem like a strange way to put it, but when I heard the test results, I felt a sense of gratitude and a surge of courage. There are so many cancer patients in my family that I always thought that one day I would get cancer too. But the days of waiting for bad news are over. I learned about my risks and was able to make my own decisions about what I wanted to do with that information. Now I’m not just praying that I’ll be lucky and cancer-free. I want everyone to know. Mutations in the BRCA gene do not only occur in breast and uterine cancers. Pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, melanoma, and several other cancers may also be implicated in this mutation. Many doctors don’t even know about it. More than 1 million people in the US have the BRCA gene mutation, and 80% of them live without knowing it. I hope my father’s (and mine’s) experience can help those people. .
My Father’s Cancer Found Encouraging Me—What Does it Mean to Know My Cancer Risk?
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