Regional genetic cancer testing rates reported
In July, Southern 7 Health Department began offering genetic cancer testing to residents in the area counties which it serves.
Union County is one of the counties served by the health department.
Southern 7 Health Department explained in a news release that genetic cancer testing is the process of looking for genetic mutations in a person’s DNA that could put the individual at risk for developing eight potential cancers.
Patients can identify their risk for these cancers before a diagnosis, which could mean earlier detection and prevention.
Southern 7 Health Department reports that in just four months, it was already seeing test positivity rates nearing levels of the national average.
Through a partnership between Southern 7 Health Department and the Hope Light Foundation, many residents over age 18 who qualify for genetic cancer testing began requesting the test to help reduce their risk of cancer-related deaths from inherited cancers.
As of early October, Southern 7 had submitted just over 100 patient samples for testing.
Currently, the national average for test positivity is 10 percent.
In October, the health department reported that 9 percent of patients tested positive for at least one genetic mutation.
While Southern 7 continues to review the findings and what they mean for the region, it is historically known that residents of Southern Illinois face increased rates of cancer when compared with the rest of the state.
“There is a growing need in Southern Illinois to improve access to genetic testing both before and at the time of diagnosis to reduce barriers for all populations,” Southern 7 Health Department executive director/public health administrator Rhonda Andrews-Ray said in a news release.
“This is especially true for those in underserved rural communities.”
According to the National Cancer Institute, about 13 percent of all cancers may be due to inherited genetic changes.
In Illinois this year, it is estimated that about 8,900 individuals will die from inherited cancers, with about 37,100 new cases of inherited cancers being diagnosed.
The health department advised that genetic testing is extremely important for those with a risk for cancer that does not have a screening test, such as a colonoscopy or mammogram, which can detect the cancer in early stages.
Genetic testing through Southern 7 Health Department is available by appointment only.
The testing involves a blood draw or saliva sample to determine an individual’s risk of developing breast, colorectal, ovarian, prostate, stomach, melanoma, pancreatic and uterine cancer.
A positive test can pinpoint a person’s risk of developing cancer, helping the individual to make informed medical decisions to reduce that risk, the health department said.
The test can also provide an explanation to a person’s doctor about her or his personal or family history of cancer and help to identify other at-risk relatives for whom genetic testing is recommended.
More information about genetic cancer testing available through Southern 7 Health Department is available by calling 618-634-2297, visiting southern 7.org or downloading the Southern 7 app.