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Mercy Health Systems providing new blood test to detect cancer

Picture of Mercy Hospital in Northwest Arkansas
Mercy Health Systems
Mercy Health Systems is offering a test that identifies early signs of cancer.

A new blood test being offered at Mercy Health Systems in Arkansas can be used to detect early signs of cancer. The Galleri test can indicate early signs of more than 50 types of cancers, including aggressive types like pancreatic, ovarian, and esophageal, which oftentimes have no warning signs

The Galleri, which is a multi-cancer early detection (MCED) blood test, was created by a California-based health care company called GRAIL. Dr. John Mohart, president of Mercy communities, said the test uses advanced sequencing to look for tumor DNA in the bloodstream.

“In general, we only screen for about four to five cancers in the U.S.—the most common ones,” Mohart said in an interview with KUAR News. “But the deep-seated cancers like pancreatic, ovarian, and esophageal, we don’t have any screening. And so, about 71% of cancer deaths are actually from cancers that we don't screen at all for. So with this test, it’s not a replacement for the normal screening that you would get with your physicians, but this is a supplement of deeper cancers that we don’t screen for at all.”

According to a press release from Mercy, results will be delivered through care navigators approximately two weeks after blood is drawn. If a positive signal is detected, additional testing and care will be conducted. Mohart said the test is the future of healthcare.

“The earlier we can detect cancer and be more preventative, the better patients do,” he said. “So, for most of these cancers we’re talking about, we wait until they come in with symptoms of either abdominal pain or belly pain, things like that, and then you find the cancer and it’s often too late. With this approach, what we’re talking about is finding cancer earlier.”

Mohart says Mercy has collaborated and worked with GRAIL as the lead research enroller in the clinical trial that brought the Galleri test to receive federal approval. While the test is available across the country, Mohart said Mercy will be the primary provider in communities it serves as it was an early adopter of it.

“Over the past eight to 10 months, we’ve worked on planning to make this available to our patients. We’re excited to have that available to our patients and co-workers through this collaboration.”

While the Galleri test is not covered by insurance and costs $949, Mohart said Mercy and GRAIL offer flexible payment options and will work with patients who qualify for the test but are unable to pay the expense. He expects the test will eventually be covered by insurance plans.

Galleri is recommended for adults with an elevated risk for cancer, such as those aged 50 or older. The test is available by prescription only and is not recommended for those who are pregnant, 21 years or younger, or undergoing cancer treatment. People interested in getting tested can visit mercy.net/EarlyCancerDetection.

Alexandria Brown is a news anchor and reporter for KUAR News. She was previously a Douthit scholar who interned for KUAR News. Alexandria will graduate from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 2022 in hopes of being a multimedia reporter.