Families are often reluctant to talk about what may have caused the death of a relative.
Knowing your family's health history, however, is very important. For women, that includes knowing your father's family's history.
Sometimes women mistakenly believe that they can't inherit the gene for breast cancer from their paternal relatives, and that just isn't so.
"They don't think they can inherit a cancer-causing gene, or breast cancer causing gene, from the paternal side, and that's absolutely not true," says Dr. Robert Green, an oncologist at the Palm Beach Cancer Institute.
When Jillian Loss was only 13, her mother passed away from breast cancer. She worried about whether she inherited a bad gene.
"It was almost a certainty to me, like okay this is what's in my future," said Jillian.
Recently she attended a seminar about the BRCA mutation and discovered something she hadn't realized before: Her father's history was important too.
"They talked about men who had prostate cancer at an early age, even some men who were diagnosed with breast cancer." said Jillian. "Those were sort of signs that maybe a man could be a carrier of the BRCA gene."
Jillian's father had survived prostate cancer when he was only 57. Jillian decided to get tested, and she encouraged her father to do the same. Not only was Jillian positive, her father turned out to be BRCA1 positive."
Jillian has planned to be closely monitored for the next few years and later have a mastectomy. Having that plan has changed how Jillian feels.
"I feel empowered!" she said.
For more information, contact the Susan G. Komen "For the Cure" helpline at 561-514-3020.
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