A 53-year-old London businessman, upon discovering that he carried the BRCA2 gene, became the first man in the world to have his prostate removed before being diagnosed with cancer.
After surgery, a considerable amount of undetected cancerous cells were discovered that had not shown up in the MRI or PSA screenings.
“The relatively low level of cancerous cells we found in this man’s prostate before the operation would these days not normally prompt immediate surgery to remove the gland,” Roger Kirby, the surgeon, said, “but given what we do know about the nature of BRCA2, it was definitely the right thing to do for this patient.”
Though removal of the prostrate can lead to permanent incontinence and infertility, the man was relieved to have it removed before the cancerous cells could spread.
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Kirby said that he believes more men with BRCA genes will opt for the surgery now. Men with the BRCA1 gene have a 3.4 times higher risk than non-carriers to develop prostate cancer, and men with the BRCA2 gene have an 8.6 times higher chance of developing it.
“A number of these BRCA families have now been identified,” Kirby said, “and knowing you are a carrier is like having the sword of Damocles hanging over you.”
As the second most frequently diagnosed cancer for men, prostate cancer leads to 258,000 deaths each year, according to the World Health Organization.