In some cases, it’s easy to see what we inherited from our family, like mom’s smile or dad’s blue eyes, but when it comes to certain health conditions, genetics can play a significant role in generations. Here’s the story of a large family with hereditary stomach cancer and the brave, but life-saving decisions many members made.
Fifty-four-year-old Beth Lambert comes from a large family. She is one of five siblings, but in 2006, her brother Steve died of a rare stomach cancer.
“I’m watching our brother go from a man full of life, and he was as good as he could get up to the end,” Lambert said.
At the same time, their mother was fighting colon cancer. Her cancer cells had the same abnormal memory cell as Asher’s brother. An active doctor suggested genetic testing. Christine Shannon is a certified genetic counselor at Massachusetts General Cancer Center. She says the recent surge in testing labs has led to dramatic changes in the field.
“In addition to BRCA1 and BRCA2, we can examine up to 80 different genes associated with cancer,” Shannon explained.
One of these genes – a CDH1 mutation – is responsible for the fatal stomach cancer that afflicted Lambert’s brother.
“My sister Kathy tested positive. My brother Mike tested positive. After our brother Dave tested negative, I tested positive,” Lambert said.
Since the cancer involves the stomach, prevention means having the stomach removed surgically.
Lambert and her brother Mike scheduled their surgery on the same day, then their focus turned to the next generation. Mike’s daughter, Shannon Walsh, tested positive for the CDH1 gene in college. She chose to remove her stomach.
“It went from, “You can wait as long as you want, within reason,” to, ‘You have to really think about doing this,'” Walsh said.
Lambert and her family eat a small meal. No food is off limits, but some are easier to process than others. Despite the challenges, the Lamberts are grateful their mother started them on the path to uncovering their genetic risk.
“If you hadn’t done that, you know, we’d be telling a very different story. We may not be here to tell this story; To be honest,” Lambert said.
Lambert and her family take nutritional supplements to compensate for foods that are difficult to process. In addition to Lambert’s niece, one of her children and two of her late brother Steve’s children were found to carry the gene for stomach cancer. He is involved in a non-profit group called the family There is no stomach for cancer To raise awareness and funds for research. They also say it’s important to pay attention to your family’s health history, and find a genetic counselor who can provide guidance if the disease follows a pattern.
Contributors to this report: Cindy McGrath, producer; Kirk Manson, videographer; Roque Correa, editor.