A year ago, Josh Newby quit his successful job at a dot-com company to care for his mom.
Theresa had Stage 4 breast cancer and was in hospice until she passed away. When she was diagnosed, she tested positive for a BRCA gene mutation. She wanted Josh to get tested too. His results were positive.
"I thought, wow, I have this gene. I got to take my life a little more seriously probably," said Josh.
Genetic counselor Khateriaa Pyrtel says many don’t realize men can pass on the faulty gene to their daughters and woman to their sons.
"I do find that it's often like they're not even thinking about the men in the families. We get the same information from our mothers that we do from our fathers in terms of our genes," said Khateriaa Pyrtel, MS, CGC, Certified Genetic Counselor, Washington University School of Medicine.
Men and woman with a BRCA mutation have a 50 percent chance of passing it on. Women with the mutation are up to seven times more likely to develop breast cancer and at least 10 times more likely to develop ovarian cancer.
The risk is much lower for men. Only 2,240 cases of male breast cancers are diagnosed each year, but men with the mutation are at a higher risk for other cancers, including prostate, stomach, pancreatic cancer and melanoma. Men should consider testing if they have a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer. Josh was glad he did.
"I do hope to have children someday, and that's very powerful information to have," he said.
Josh has made early cancer screenings a priority. He started a foundation, the Theresa Foundation for Metastatic Breast Cancer, to raise money for cancer research. He wants to give others the chance his mom didn't have.
"She's just the most amazing person in the world," he said.
There's currently no standardized guideline, but men from families with a strong history of breast and ovarian cancer should consider getting tested.