The key to success with cancer is finding it at an early (more curable) stage. Doctors’ best strategy is to perform screening tests. They are called “screening” because they look for asymptomatic disease in someone who likely does not have the disease. Until recently, there were only a handful of cancers we could detect at an early stage with screening tests: lung (in certain high-risk individuals), breast, colon, prostate, and cervix. That puts us at a disadvantage. You see, 70% of cancer deaths are caused by cancers we do not routinely screen for. To make matters worse, many cancers do not cause symptoms until late in the process. At that point, the chances for meaningful treatment or a cure have diminished.
A new technology has been developed which can look for cancer in the body. Unlike tests you may have heard about which identify genetic risk for cancer, this new test may detect the presence of asymptomatic cancer. Identifying cancer at an early stage can significantly improve the chances of fighting it before it spreads to other parts of the body. Early detection also enhances the odds for survival and even a cure.
This test is called Galleri. Having trained as a molecular & cellular biologist, I think the details of how the test works are intriguing. The Galleri test looks for changes in DNA released from cancer cells. It takes the process a step further and may even tell us what kind of cancer is present. With just a blood test, we can now look for more than 50 kinds of cancers.
There are important considerations to know about:
- The test is ordered through a medical office.
- No medical test is perfect. As we have heard with the COVID-19 tests, there will be false-negative results (the test says everything is fine when there actually is disease present) and false-positive results (the test says there is a problem when the patient is really OK).
- This is an additional cancer screening strategy. Other screening tests like Pap smears, mammograms, colonoscopies and rectal exams remain very important. You do not get to skip any other tests.
- The test is not covered by insurance. The out-of-pocket expense is $949.
- The test is designed for patients at least 50-years-old without signs or symptoms of cancer. In other words, it is a screening test and not a diagnostic test.
- If the Galleri test identifies the DNA changes associated with cancer, additional testing is necessary to gain more information and make a definitive diagnosis.
The testing process is easy.
- Carefully review the Galleri website.
- Create an account on this website.
- Schedule an appointment with me (at my office, by phone or telemedicine) to discuss the test in more detail. If the test sounds right for you, you can pick up a test kit at my office.
- Go to Quest Lab for a simple blood draw.
- We will contact you in 2 – 3 weeks to discuss the results.
As great as this new technology may be, PREVENTION is still better than detection. A smoke detector will let you know your house is on fire. Preventing a fire in your home is a much better approach.