More insurance companies help cover cancer genetic testing

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) – We’re nearing the end of Cancer Prevention Month, but we’re continuing the conversation beyond February about how to catch cancer early. In Wisconsin, there were approximately 36,000 new cancer cases estimated by the American Cancer Society in 2021 alone.

Getting genetic testing in the state may not necessarily prevent cancer from occurring, but it can help health experts catch it earlier before it becomes more deadly.

“I got tested, found out I had a break in a gene, and then my parents wanted to get tested,” said Jill, a nurse from Bellin Health. “The break in my genes actually came from my dad’s side and his family actually has three genes that are broken.”

Jill beat breast cancer when she was 42, then uterine cancer when she was 44. She underwent genetic tests at age 43 which revealed breaks in her DNA. Jill wanted to keep her last name private on the air in consideration of her adult children who are still too young to get screened but have a 50% chance of having the genetic differences that Jill thinks likely lead to her cancers.

The topic of genetic testing comes up, “whenever people are concerned about heredity or cancer linked to their genes or passed down from father to son or mother to son that sort of thing,” Dr. Brian Burnette, oncologist at HSHS St. Vincent Hospital Cancer Centers, said.

Considering her medical history, Jill compiled a family tree listing her family’s cancer history. Help create a better picture for the next generation of what might be in their DNA.

“We’re not just focusing on the patient or the person in front of us, but on their entire family and considering what it might mean for your family members,” noted Heather Willems, Certified Genetic Counselor. at ThedaCare Regional Cancer Center. “What could that mean for future cancer risks as well and are there other cancers that you might be at increased risk for if we know we can talk about ways to be proactive with a screening.”

“Now I’ve just reached out to the next generation on this side of the family and urge my younger cohort to get tested just so they know,” Jill pointed out.

As a medical professional and someone who has gone through the process herself, Jill is thrilled that more insurance companies are covering genetic testing. That way it’s more accessible. If you think you are at high risk for cancer, contact your doctor about testing options.

Annie Krall is a former writer and producer for ABC NEWS New York City in the national medical and business units. Prior to this position, she was accepted into medical school her senior year at Northwestern University, after spending four years as a pre-med student. However, Krall postponed his acceptance to pursue a master’s degree in health, environmental and science journalism at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism.

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Kristan F. Talley