Mercy Hospitals now offers a new blood test that can detect markers for more than 50 types of cancer – including several that are otherwise impossible to screen – to catch the disease early.
Nancy Dixon knew as soon as she heard about the test that she wanted to sign up.
Dixon, who works in media relations at Mercy and is based in Oklahoma City, lost her father to pancreatic cancer when she was 16. He was only 51 years old.
“I’m older than he was when he died,” she said. “So that’s always been on my mind.”
Pancreatic cancer is difficult to detect early. It is not one of the types of cancers people are routinely screened for, and it is usually diagnosed at stage IV, which can leave patients with few treatment options.
The new blood test, called Galleri, is a multi-cancer early detection test developed by healthcare company GRAIL. Although Galleri is not fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the FDA gave it a “Breakthrough Device” designation in 2019, allowing GRAIL’s blood test to be offered to the public while more data is available. collected.
The test is intended to supplement – not replace – regular cancer screenings, such as breast, colon, cervix, lung and prostate.
“This innovative test has shown the ability to screen for hard-to-detect, aggressive, and often fatal types of cancer such as the pancreas, ovary, and esophagus, which often show no warning signs and are detected too late,” said Dr. Jay Carlson, the clinical president of Mercy Research, said in a statement.
Dixon was one of the first people to schedule the blood test through Mercy. As someone who has always tried to be proactive about his health, this was a “no brainer” for Dixon.
She is expecting her results this week and hopes they will bring peace of mind.
“If my dad could have caught his cancer earlier and there had been something that could have been done, he might be here today,” she said.
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Who is it for?
The test is currently offered to people 50 or older, or to some people under 50 with a family history of cancer or other risk factors.
The test costs $949, and it’s not covered by insurance, so patients will have to pay out of pocket. Mercy said it would work with people who can’t afford the full cost of the test.
How it works?
A patient comes in for a simple blood draw – like the one you might get to check your cholesterol level, for example – and the sample is sent off to be tested.
“The test looks for specific cancer-related DNA markers or signals,” said Dr. Jesse Campbell, president of Mercy Clinic Oklahoma.
Within approximately two weeks of the blood draw, Mercy’s early detection team and the patient will receive the screening results from GRAIL, with a separate marker for each of the cancer types included in the screening.
A positive result means a patient must have additional diagnostic tests to determine if cancer is really present, Campbell said.
For example, if a signal comes back positive for breast cancer, a patient would be contacted to schedule a mammogram to confirm that the cancer is indeed there. False positives and false negatives are rare, but do happen occasionally, Campbell said.
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On the other hand, a negative result does not give a person a pass to skip their normal screenings, but could provide some peace of mind. People should continue their regular cancer screenings, and the current recommendation is to repeat the blood test in three years, Campbell said.
For more information and to see if you are eligible, go to Mercy.net/EarlyCancerDetection.