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Gastric cancer hits Pennsylvania family with gene mutation


By Susan Shapiro

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    DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pennsylvania (WGAL) — A rare gene mutation linked to stomach cancer runs through a family in Dauphin County.

Dawn Bower was having trouble swallowing and other issues. She tested positive for the gene mutation CDH1. Her three siblings then got tested, and two of them, Deb Sultzaberger and Dan Lehigh, also tested positive. The gene codes for a protein that helps cells stick to each other, and a mutation results in a syndrome — hereditary diffuse gastric cancer.

“What I thought was acid reflux and bloating because of eating too many bread products was not the case,” Lehigh said.

All three siblings underwent surgery at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center to have their stomachs removed. Surgical oncologist June Peng hooked up some of the intestine to the esophagus.

She says, “gastric cancers in these patients are up to 40 percent with a significant cancer, and for that reason, we recommend a prophylactic gastrectomy, removing the entire stomach as a preventive surgery.”

Testing following the surgery indicated that Dawn, Debbie and Daniel had early-stage cancers. The siblings are convinced other family members, who have since died, also had gastric cancer.

Lehigh only eats about 10 ounces of food for a meal and has to cut everything up extremely small. He has gone from about 260 pounds to 187.

Bower, who has also lost a lot of weight post-surgery, says, “I’m hoping it stopped with us because it was a nightmare when I had to have it.”

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