Updated: Sep 26
I was about 10 years old and I remember it like it was yesterday. I decided to ask
my mom how she and dad decided to name me, “Harvey Irwin”? It wasn’t like it
was a ‘Common Name’ nor a “Cool Name”.
She explained that the Jewish faith names kids after someone who had passed
away to honor them. I was named after my mom’s two brothers who both passed
away from cancer in their 30’s. It hit me hard. Was I destined to get cancer and
die young like them? To me, it was more about superstition and fate, NOT about
As it turned out, IT WAS ALL ABOUT GENETICS!
This week is “Hereditary Cancer Week”. I have survived two different hereditary
cancers. (Breast and Prostate) Both were passed on to me from my mom. My
sister has survived four breast cancer diagnoses, also caused by the BRCA2
Mutation. My mom and her sister also had breast cancer.
The past 25 years have brought us amazing insight as we continue to learn more
about how genetic mutations and your heredity puts you at risk for many deadly
cancers. More importantly, it provides us with the methods to understand your
risks and hence catch these potentially deadly diseases in the early stages.
Hereditary cancer puts your life at risk, but knowing these risks can also save your
own life! It helped me to save mine.
Most guys who are diagnosed with Male Breast Cancer find out much too late. It’s
not a common disease in men, so they tend to ignore symptoms and are hardly
ever screening in advance for this disease. My sister and mom had breast cancer,
so at an early sign, that most men would disregard, I went to get it checked.
If you know your family history and there’s cancer in the tree, genetic testing will
help you to identify any potential risks. On the flip side, it may just put your mind
at ease to know you do not carry a deadly mutation.
If you know, you can screen earlier and more efficiently. Mammograms for men is
not a normal screening process, UNLESS you have predisposition. Early PSA
testing and continued follow up, can identify prostate cancer risks. EUS
(Endoscopic Ultrasound) will help to catch early pancreatic cancer issues.
Melanoma, another BRCA Mutation cancer, allows for twice a year surveillance.
Everyday, our scientific community is working hard to identify more and more
genetic mutations, causing all types of diseases. Certain cancers can now be
treated with specific targeted therapies for exactly the genetic mutation that
caused that cancer to manifest. Parp Inhibitors are a great example of this
revelation. Parp specifically works by targeting the mutation, repairing it, even
after the cancer has developed. Once repaired, the cancer begins to dissipate.
Take some time to speak with all members of your family about the past medical
history. Remember that Dads can pass mutations to sons or daughters and your
mom can pass to her son or daughters. Hereditary cancer is genderless.
KNOW YOUR HEREDITARY CANCER RISKS!
KNOW YOUR GENES!
And, you will have a great chance to KNOW HOW to keep Living the Good Life!
Harvey I. Singer, Editor & Co-Founder