A blood test can detect 50 types of cancer, but it will cost you

Published: Feb. 6, 2023 at 4:02 PM CST
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - The American Cancer Society estimates 40 percent of all people will get cancer sometime in their lifetimes.

Health experts agree that early detection is key to getting good outcomes in cancer treatment. But there are many types of cancer that don’t show symptoms, and patients don’t know they have it until it’s progressed to advanced stages.

But now, there’s a new blood test that can detect 50 types of cancer in its earliest stages. It’s called Galleri, and your doctor can order it for you.

Dr. Neal Erickson with Kansas City Family Medical Care learned about the test over a year ago and quickly started to make his patients aware of it.

“For patients who are concerned about cancer or just their general health, I let them know there’s a newer test out there to find out if there’s any cancer cell detected in their blood,” said Dr. Erickson. “I offer it to everybody for their annual exams.”

“It doesn’t check every cancer,” said Dr. Erickson, “but the top 50 cancers that we worry about are the ones that are really dangerous.”

The test is not predictive, which means it won’t help determine if you’ll develop cancer. But it can help determine if cancer is present.

It will not replace other cancer screenings like mammography and colonoscopy, and it would need to be done regularly to really catch cancer early.

And it’s self-pay — at a cost of about $1,000. Still, some patients are very excited about the test.

“When I first learned about the test, it was an immediate, ‘Oh my gosh, my parents have to take this,’” said Carrie DeCoursey.

She and her mom had the test done right before Christmas.

“It’s a gift either way,” said DeCoursey. “If it’s negative, it’s phenomenal. And if it’s positive, then at least we can get on top of it.”

DeCoursey’s and her mother’s tests came back negative.

“A complete sense of relief,” said Decoursey. “Not that it was something that I was thinking about on a daily basis but a weight lifted off.”

Still, the cost of the test makes it out of reach for most people.

“It is expensive,” concedes Dr. Erickson. “And if you do every single patient every single year, there’s going to be a significant cost.”

Still, he predicts the cost will come down.

“I think, in time, insurance companies will see the value,” said Dr. Erickson. “They can identify these cancers and save lives at an earlier stage. That’s going to be a big deal.”

KCTV5 checked in with a local bioethicist about all the changes ahead in medicine. He said he believes the gap in healthcare will continue, but that is how advances are made,

Technology pushes forward and there will always be a divide between the new technology of those who can afford it and those who cannot,” said Dr. Ryan Pferdehirt, with the Center for Practical Bioethics in Kansas City. “But the hope is that as we push it forward in the years to come, that technology will then filter down to the more general public.”

Dr. Pferdehirt said there are concerns about predictive tests that gauge your risk of getting cancer because of questions about how patients, employers and insurance companies will react. But this test is different because it can detect cancer that is already present.

“It’s a really great feeling,” said DeCoursey. “I think it’s going to make a huge impact on health care.”