HEALTH

What should men do if they have family history of breast cancer?

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(WJLA) - Shawn Gardner knows breast cancer all too well.

"My mother was a survivor," he told ABC7. "She was diagnosed with breast cancer in the 1990s."

Then, his sister Heather was diagnosed in 2002.

"She went home and was diagnosed with four brain tumors - her breast cancer had matastasized, and she passed away five months later," he said.

His remaining sister tested positive for the "BRCA 2" gene last year, which greatly increases a person's chance of developing breast or uterine cancer.

"She underwent a proactive double masectomy and hysterectomy," he said.

Doctors suggested Gardner also get tested, and he too recently found out he is positive for "BRCA 2."

Gardner said he had mixed feelings about the news.

"At first I thought it was going to be empowering and wonderful to know," he said. "But it's kind of been a little bit more stressful than I thought it was going to be."

According to the National Cancer Institute, while rare, men with the BRCA 2 gene do have an increased risk of developing breast, prostate and pancreatic cancers.

While men can get baseline mammograms, preventative surgery for men hasn't yet been fully researched.

"I don't know from a statistical standpoint whether that would justify doing profilactive removal of breast tissue in every man that has that genetic predisposition," said Gardner's doctor, Dr. Theo Hodge.

While keeping up with his own health, Gardner says his main goal is continuing his promise to his late sister Heather to raise money for breast cancer research for all women - and the men in their lives.

"Her death meant something," said Gardner.

If you're a man and you have an immediate family history of breast cancer, Dr. Hodge suggests you get the facts - and talk to your doctor.

As for Gardner, he's in great spirits - he's currently the top Race for the Cure fundraiser in D.C., with more than $15,000 raised so far.

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