What are the chances that cancer strikes twice in a family? Rather high, I would say, since genetics is a risk factor in many types of cancer. However, the case of breast cancer striking a mother and son duo is rather uncommon as in the case of Lynda and Cedric Skillom.
Whereas breast cancer is commonly thought to be a woman’s disease, men do get the cancer even though breast cancer in men is relatively rare. Whereas the lifetime risk of developing breast cancer is 12% in women, the figure in men is about 1 in 1000. The American Cancer Society estimated that about 1,910 new cases of invasive breast cancer were diagnosed in men in 2009 and that about 440 men would die of the disease.
A large fraction of breast cancer is due to mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2. These two genes are tumor suppressors and mutations lead to uncontrolled cell growth and cancer. Although the BRCA gene mutations are closely linked to breast cancer, these mutations also increases the risk for other cancers such as cervical, colon, pancreatic, uterine, bile duct, gallbladder, pancreatic, and stomach cancers, and melanoma. The latest development in genetic testing has enabled testing for these mutations
Lynda Skillom was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent treatment at the Loyola University Health System. She tested positive for BRCA2 mutation. Her 29-year old son Cedric also underwent genetic testing and tested positive for the same mutation. In men, inheriting the BRCA2 mutation means higher risk than inheriting BRCA1 mutation. About 10% of breast cancer in men is due to the BRCA2 mutation.
A precancerous lump found in Cedric’s breast warranted the performance of a double mastectomy, which according to oncologist and hematologist Dr. Patricia Robinson at Loyola: “A double mastectomy is often the best option for long-term prognosis for these patients.”
The American Cancer Society estimated that about 1,910 new cases of invasive breast cancer were diagnosed in men in 2009 and that about 440 men would die of the disease. Breast cancer screening is routine among women but not in men. In many cases, breast cancer in men is detected at a later stage than in women, thus with poorer prognosis. Thus, the breast cancer diagnosis and genetic testing of Lynn Skillom led to early screening and detection of breast cancer in her son that might have saved his life.
Lynda and her son Cedric celebrated Mother’s Day cancer-free.