Celebrating Previvorship on Father's Day


I celebrate Previvor Day every day, but more so on Father’s Day.

For those unfamiliar with the term, a previvor is someone who has not been diagnosed with cancer but is at a higher risk for cancer due to certain inherited genetic mutations (BRCA1, BRCA2, CHEK2, ATM, PALB2, TP53, MLH1, MSH2, MSH6, etc., etc.). Being a previvor does not mean you will get hereditary cancer; there are ways to reduce the risk. But those choices can be life-altering.

My daughter is a previvor.

Imagine being in your 20s and watching your mother die a horrific death caused by a pathogenic genetic mutation that you had just recently learned that you also carry. Then having to face all the life-changing medical decisions and procedures to reduce your cancer risk without your beloved mother by your side. That takes exceptional courage.

Genomic science has given my child, who has grown into a kind, creative, and confident scientist, a chance to live a full life cancer-free, something her mother did not get. Because of laws and attitudes still stuck in the last century, information that would have saved her mother’s life did not get shared.

Father’s Day gives me another opportunity to advocate for hereditary cancer awareness and prevention. And prevention starts with knowing and sharing family health/cancer history — both maternal AND paternal.

Everyone has tumor suppressor genes like BRCA (BReast CAncer) 1 and 2. Mutations in those
and other genes can cause many different cancers. And knowing that genetic mutations can be passed down for generations from fathers as well as mothers can be life-saving.  

Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers of previvors.

Life is fragile. Knowledge is power.