Joyce Walmer’s father had thyroid cancer. So did her uncle. Her sister has endured three surgeries to remove tumors from her thyroid and adrenal glands. Joyce herself had surgery twice for the same reason, performed by UW Hospital and Clinics surgeon Herbert Chen, MD, who was now telling her that her children – 8-year-old Kiara, 4-year-old Robert and 2-year-old Lilianna – would be in for the same, if no action were taken.
“Joyce’s children have multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN) 2A, which is an inherited syndrome,” says Dr. Chen. “If the parent has the gene” – which Joyce did – “there is a 50 percent chance the children will get it.”
MEN2 is a rare hereditary condition, occurring in roughly one in 35,000 people in the United States. It is caused by a mutation in the RET gene, which provides instruction for producing a protein that is involved in cell signaling and is needed for the normal development of several kinds of nerve cells.
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