Genetic testing now available at St. Alexius

Patients at St. Alexius Medical Plaza who are at high risk to develop cancer now have the option of seeking genetic testing, said physician assistant Lindsey Siemens.

Siemens said new patients are asked to fill out a risk assessment form along with their health history.

Certain red flags include having a history of certain rare cancers, three or more first degree relatives on the same side of the family who have been diagnosed with cancer or having cancers diagnosed at an early age. Male breast cancer or ovarian cancer in the family, for instance, will “definitely trigger us to look into genetic testing.”

Siemens said insurance companies will generally cover genetic testing if it is indicated because of a family or personal history of cancers.

Under special circumstances, a clinic may advocate for testing for a particular person. For instance, an adoptee who doesn’t have a medical history of his or her biological family members may have a compelling reason for needing genetic testing, even if they don’t meet the company’s criteria.

The company used by St. Alexius Medical Plaza is Myriad and the genetic test given is called MyRisk.

“It can be a life-saving tool for high risk families,” said Siemens.

Once a patient has the comprehensive report based on their genetic makeup and knows whether they carry certain high risk gene mutations, they can make decisions about their future health care. Some people may need to undergo more frequent screenings for cancer.

Siemens said the technology has evolved and will continue to evolve, so more information will be available for people who undergo testing. The company will also update results as more testing becomes available.