As yearly cancer screenings are urged, new test is approved

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As yearly cancer screenings are urged, new test is approved

With Breast Cancer Awareness Month comes the reminder for women to get their yearly mammogram. But often, people skip those yearly screenings, which d

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With Breast Cancer Awareness Month comes the reminder for women to get their yearly mammogram. But often, people skip those yearly screenings, which doctors say is a big concern.

Now, groups across the state and the country are taking steps to make cancer screenings more accessible for New Yorkers.

Cancer has touched almost everyone’s life in one way or another. And it’s no different for the doctors that treat it.


What You Need To Know

  • A new early detection cancer test was just approved by the state Department of Health
  • Galleri is a blood test that can screen for 50 different cancers at a time
  • This comes as doctors continue to urge yearly screening for cancers such as mammograms and colonoscopies

“It’s an epidemic,” said Dr. Tallat Mahmood, the medical director Roswell Park Care Network at Ellis Medicine. “My husband had lung cancer many, many years ago, so yeah, it touched everybody.”

Each year, more than 110,000 New Yorkers are diagnosed with cancer. It’s a scary statistic, especially when cancer care isn’t always accessible for every New Yorker, which is why cancer care is expanding in upstate.

“When you’re on chemotherapy, you’re sick and don’t want to be traveling, and a lot of people don’t have the transportation,” said Dr. Mahmood.

Mahmood just started at the new Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center at Ellis Hospital in Schenectady, the first-of-its-kind center in the Capital Region, with a new location at Roswell Park Cancer Center in Buffalo. The Capital Region community will also benefit by being able to participate in all of Roswell’s outreach and network programs, and tests that include yearly screening.

“We are so fortunate here that not only do we have tests here, but they’re now in a location where you can have access to them easily,” Mahmood said.

While screening and early detection for cancer can increase a person’s chance of survival, Dr. Mahmood says most people will still skip it.

“Screening means you’re asymptomatic; no symptoms. But it’s out of sight, out of mind, right?” she added.

But this comes as a new test was just approved in New York by the Department of Health. Galleri is a first-of-its-kind blood test expected to help detect cancer earlier in patients.

“We still have about two-thirds or more of the cancers not having any screening whatsoever,” says Dr. Whitney Jones, the senior medical director at GRAIL Bio, Galleri’s parent company. “Bringing DNA into it really called us to change the paradigm for screening for individual cancers to screening individuals for many cancers.”

This test works different than others. In the past, a simple blood test can detect 50 different cancers. It’s intended for those at an elevated risk of cancer, such as adults 50 or older.

“The screening tests then informs the doctors on what to look for and what tests are appropriate to do,” said Jones.

While it’s not yet approved at Roswell Park or Ellis Hospital, it’s something that should be used alongside the yearly screenings, like mammograms or colonoscopies.

“The Galleri test is a compliment to the existing screening tests that are out there, not a replacement. Because those tests are very sensitive and do very good at reducing cancer,” Jones said.

GRAIL is lobbying Congress to make this test available through Medicare, which would greatly improve accessibility. Right now, it is not covered by insurance.

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