Confronting Cancer: A Father’s Fear—Nate’s Results

RICHMOND (WRIC)—Earlier this month, 8News Senior Reporter Nate Eaton told
you how the BRCA 1 “breast cancer gene” isn't just passed from mother to
daughter—fathers can also pass it on.

The mutated gene runs in Eaton's
family, and three
weeks ago he took the test to see if he has it
. Because his mother tested
positive for BRCA 1 nearly 20 years ago, there's a 50 percent chance that Nate will
also test positive. If he does, his five-month-old baby girl could carry it,
too.

Since this story ran, 8News
has received an overwhelming number of emails, phone calls, Facebook messages
and texts
.

Here is Nate's story in his own
words:

It's been three weeks, and I'm back at the Bon Secours
Virginia Breast Center with my wife, Erica, and baby, Emerson. We've been
waiting to see whether or not I carry the BRCA 1 mutated gene.

More on that in a second, but first, I have to tell you, it
was tough for me to decide whether I should even get tested. The mutation is
extremely rare, and although few people have it, thousands of Virginians have
had to make that choice.

It's a decision that can be tough.

“If you're sad or nervous or anxious about finding out your
genetic information, you could interpret that as being harmful,” said Dr.
Jessica Flanigan, a medical ethics professor at the University of Richmond.

Flanigan says patients often fear genetic testing. But, as
years go by, more are realizing that learning the results now can improve life
later.

“Patients can actively take steps; they can be proactive in
their own healthcare in a preventative way,” Flanigan said.

Medical doctors agree.

“Knowledge is power, because we can do something about it,”
said Dr. William Irvin of the Bon Secours Cancer Institute.

And that's what has led me here, because if I have a mutated
BRCA 1 gene, my cancer risk goes up and there's a 50 percent chance Emerson has
the mutated gene.

My test was simple; I swished with mouthwash and it was sent
to a lab. My mom, who's BRCA 1 positive, has spent the past three weeks
wondering what the results hold.

“What did you think when I told you I was gonna go get the
test?” I asked her.

“I think it's a great idea,” she said. “I'm glad you are.
Obviously, I hope you don't have it.”

Now she—and we—will find out.

“Well, I have good news for all of you,” said Dr. James
Pellicane of the Bon Secours Breast Center. “Your test was negative, meaning no
mutation in your gene profile … which means your risk, of course, is almost
zero of breast cancer.”

Negative, meaning my risk—and my daughter's—of getting
cancer is now the same as anybody else's.

“Her risk of getting the gene is zero,” Pellicane said. “Can't
skip a generation; if you don't have it, she doesn't have it.”

I'll be honest—I was ecstatic hearing the news. So was my
wife and my mom.

It's a relief for all of us. Hopefully one of you will see
this story and decide to get tested or see a doctor.

“Now that you've raised this awareness, there'll be a lot
more people—a lot more men—looking at their family history to see if they can
pass that gene on,” Pellicane said. “It's gonna eventually save lives somewhere
down the line. And I think your story's gonna do the same thing.”

My two sisters have both been tested and are both BRCA 1
negative. My brothers have not been tested, but tell me they'll likely do it
soon.

If my results had been positive, I'd need to keep a close
eye on my health and get regular exams. Then, as I got older, be aware of any
abnormalities.

I'm 32; women my age who are positive should start getting
mammograms and MRIs now, rather than waiting until they're 40.

 

Copyright 2013 by Young
Broadcasting of Richmond

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