Salem Hospital Launches Genetic Testing Pilot for Cancer

According to a report by the Stamford Advocate, The Salem Health Cancer Institute recently launched a genetic program to help improve cancer treatment. Salem Health Hospitals and Clinics report that cancer is the top cause of death among those it serves. With an estimated 5 to 10 percent of cancers being the result of genetic mutations, a genetic screening could have a huge impact on treatment. Especially in cases of breast cancer and ovarian cancer where genetics are already a known factor. Keep reading to learn more, or follow the original story here for further information.

Saving Time

Previously if patients wanted genetic testing for cancer risks, it was unavailable at their home hospital in Salem. They’d have to make the trip to Portland. The trip could be difficult for some patients, and simply costly for others. Thanks to funding from the Salem Health foundation, however, Salem Health Cancer Institute launched its own program in July. Funding is currently planned to last through the program’s initial year.

According to the American Cancer Society, roughly one in every three Americans develops cancer at some point. This additional testing in Salem could very easily save patient lives. The pilot program is also intended to be come self-sustaining after its first year.

Testing Cancer

Many cases of cancer can be traced back to risk factors. Smoking, for example, is a known cause of lung cancer. Sometimes though, cancer can seem a completely random occurrence. If it occurs within families this may be reason to suspect genetic causes, but there are also other criteria.

That’s where genetic testing can be most useful. There are a number of criteria patients should meet to pursue testing. One of them is whether or not patients meet clinical testing criteria. Meeting this criteria means most insurances will cover the testing. Another factor, described by Clinical Nurse Specialist Nancy Ledbetter, are certain “clusters.” Ovarian cancer, and breast cancer in the family are major factors. Each of the identified clusters potentially refers to a rare hereditary cancer syndrome.

The actual tests are conducted off-location. Another lab, out-of-state, handle the samples collected by doctors and nurses in Salem. The tests consists of simple blood, and saliva samples. Patients typically receive a referral from a medical provider in order to be tested. Once the lab has the samples they extract DNA and determine whether or not there is a mutation. Recommendations can then be made based on the results.

Ledbetter says that the difference this can make is earlier screening leading to better preventative measures. Colon cancer, for example, may be able to be screened for in a person’s 20s instead of waiting until they are 45. In cases of ovarian, uterine, or breast cancer, there are even preventative surgeries that can greatly reduce the risk of cancer once the genetic factors are assessed.

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