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Don Cooper: Genetic Testing Leads to Clarity

Don Cooper

“What does it buy me to be mad at the world? You take the bad with the good. You’ve got to put up a fight.”

Don Cooper
Prostate Cancer

Don Cooper’s cancer journey started 13 years ago when he was first diagnosed with prostate cancer while living in the Dallas area. Under the care of his physicians at Texas Oncology–Plano East and Texas Urology Specialists–Plano, Don completed prostate removal surgery and subsequent radiation therapy and then additional hormone therapy for a recurrence before entering remission for two years.

In the years that followed, Don regularly went to Texas Oncology for maintenance checkups. Ready to get away from the city, his family moved to the Bryan, Texas, area about three years ago, where his daughter enrolled at Texas A&M University as an undergraduate student and was later accepted to its well-regarded veterinary medicine school. Don was adamant about continuing his care with Texas Oncology. That’s when he was introduced to Carl Chakmakjian, D.O., medical oncologist at Texas Oncology–Waco.

At this point, Don’s prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level had risen again, and Dr. Chakmakjian conducted tests which confirmed cancer cells had spread to Don’s spine.

Making Empowered Health Decisions

Don participated in two clinical trials that were effective in significantly lowering his PSA level. As part of his treatment plan, Don also had genetic testing that indicated he was positive for the BRCA-2 mutation.

Inherited BRCA gene mutations are most commonly associated with increased risk for breast and ovarian cancers, but they can also increase risk for and aggressiveness of prostate cancer.

While they are often referred to as the “breast” cancer genes, BRCA gene mutations can also impact men. Men with a BRCA mutation have a 20% lifetime risk for developing prostate cancer.

“Not all prostate cancers are associated with BRCA mutations,” Dr. Chakmakjian explained. “However, if a man has the BRCA gene mutation, he may be at risk for prostate cancer and other cancers, and his family should be tested for the hereditary mutation as well.”

The results of Don’s genetic testing not only helped his care team better understand his type of cancer, it also allowed his children to make informed decisions about their own genetic testing. One of his daughters also tested positive for the BRCA mutation and was able to take preventative steps to reduce her cancer risk.

“The fact that she knows that I have the BRCA mutation could save her life,” Don said.

Prioritizing What’s Most Important

Throughout this journey, Don says he’s focusing on what’s important to him – quality of life. He continued to work during his treatment and is surrounded by a network of other supportive patients and a top-notch care team. “Dr. Chakmakjian is a good listener, and he’s very understanding. The whole staff in Waco is amazing – the receptionist, nursing staff, and lab technicians,” Don said. Dr. Chakmakjian commends Don for taking an active role in his treatment.

“Mr. Cooper is always a pleasure to see. He is very intelligent and involved in his care,” Dr. Chakmakjian shared. “He is willing and eager to participate in clinical trials, and he is involved with a prostate cancer support group.”

Don joined this support group to connect with other patients with similar experiences and to share his journey. He says he’s had to come to grips with being diagnosed with cancer, but it’s not stopping him from pushing forward. “What does it buy me to be mad at the world? You take the bad with the good. You’ve got to put up a fight.”

The information included in this testimonial is based on one patient’s unique experience and is not intended to represent all patient outcomes or expectations.