Adventist Health Bakersfield | You + Us | Fall 2019

3 Excellence is our everyday endeavor. Men get breast cancer, too Breast cancer is rarer in men, and it’s also more deadly. It’s projected to kill 500 men this year, or about 18% of the 2,700 or so men who will be diagnosed, according to the American Cancer Society. That projected death rate among men is roughly six times higher than the death rate among women. Why the difference? It comes down to awareness. Women are more in tune to the risk, which leads to screening, earlier detection and treatment, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Genetic testing and breast cancer Based on their family history, some people seek genetic counseling and testing to learn more about their specific risk for breast cancer. That knowledge can help them take steps to protect their health. Genetic testing can also be beneficial after a diagnosis of breast cancer. Surgeons and oncologists at the Adventist Health AIS Cancer Center use it—along with other tests—to tailor specific treatments. This helps ensure people get the best possible care and recovery. Breaking the chain of cancer After Rob’s diagnosis, his care team at the Adventist Health AIS Cancer Center encouraged him to get genetic testing. As one of Kern County’s only nationally accredited breast cancer centers, testing is offered on-site. Rob learned he carries a rare BRCA1 genetic mutation. In most people, the gene helps repair DNA and suppress tumor growth, but when the gene is mutated, it leaves those affected at higher risk of developing cancer. The mutation runs in families. When Rob heard that, his family’s history of cancer made more sense. His mother died of breast cancer when he was in high school. His aunt also lost her life to the disease. Last year, Rob’s father died of pancreatic cancer shortly after being diagnosed. His brother died of cancer seven years ago. Rob says he’ll never know if his loved ones carried the BRCA1 gene mutation, but he suspects it could have robbed them of their health. “We didn’t know, and we won’t know,” he says. What Rob does know is that there’s a 50% chance his two sons carry that same genetic mutation. Now he’s urging his sons and his sister to get tested. He hopes being armed with that knowledge helps his family take steps to reduce their risk—and fear—of cancer. “I know what it’s like to lose a loved one,” Rob says. “My prayer is that I could break this chain of cancer in my family so that my kids and grandkids don’t have to worry about having cancer.” Standing up for awareness Throughout his journey, including six months of chemotherapy, one of Rob’s biggest struggles wasn’t treatment-related. It was the stigma of being a man with breast cancer. There were no support groups where he felt comfortable—he couldn’t find another man locally who had been diagnosed. He wasn’t even comfortable calling it breast cancer. Instead, he referred to it as chest cancer. “People didn’t even know this could happen,” Rob says. “I’d go to the hospital and people would be intrigued that I had a double mastectomy.” More recently, he’s embraced calling it breast cancer and is an advocate for screening—encouraging his female friends who haven’t been to the doctor in years to schedule mammograms. “People need to be more aware of it. People don’t realize this can happen to men, but we all have breast tissue, and it’s not discussed that way,” Rob says. “There’s still some awkwardness in talking about it, but in the scope of things, you’ve got life and death when you’re looking at cancer. That awkwardness you feel tends not to be as important.” Interested in genetic testing? To learn more or to schedule an appointment with our genetic nurse counselor, call 855-448-0067 . “I know what it’s like to lose a loved one. My prayer is that I could break this chain of cancer in my family so that my kids and grandkids don’t have to worry about having cancer.” — Rob Lieske