Personalized medicine can mean a lot of things. At NorthShore University HealthSystem, we define it as the customization of patient care with a treatment plan based on a patient’s health history and genetic characteristics. A patient’s healthcare plan is incomplete without considering the genetic component.
We strongly believe in the benefits of personalized medicine. All of our patients who are age 18 and older complete a Genetic and Wellness Assessment during their annual physical exam with a primary care provider. Depending on their answers, patients have the opportunity to request an order be placed by their doctor for genetic testing.
NorthShore’s Neaman Center for Personalized Medicine provides several types of genetic testing, including:
- Genetic Health Screen – This test can help determine your risk for certain cancers, heart conditions and how your body might process certain medications.
- Hereditary Cancer Test – We also offer targeted genetic testing for patients with a family history of cancer. We can help patients determine if they have changes in their genes that place them at a higher risk for certain types of cancer. This impacts care for the person who is affected as well as other family members who might also consider testing to see if they are at risk.
A few common misconceptions about genetic testing: not everyone qualifies, it’s expensive and it’s not covered by health insurance. Today, everyone can access some type of genetic testing. The cost is coming down and more health insurance plans cover it. For example, Hereditary Cancer Tests that are recommended based on personal or family history of cancer are almost always billed to health insurance given the broad insurance coverage for patients who meet guidelines. The Genetic Health Screen panel is available to NorthShore patients (for only $99) who may not know their family history or want to gain broader insight into their risks and how to devise a preventative care plan that incorporates genetic information.
The availability of this type of testing is dramatically improving patient care. We’re able to detect disease at its earliest stages. For example, preventive screenings aren’t effective for ovarian cancer, which leads to women getting diagnosed during later – and less treatable – stages of the disease. With genetic testing, we are able to determine if a woman has an elevated risk for ovarian cancer, which can help us find cancer earlier and improve outcomes for these patients.
Through genetic testing, we can help people take control of their health. One example is Megan’s Story. Through genetic testing, Megan learned she was positive for the BRCA gene mutation, which helped inform her decision to undergo a preemptive double mastectomy to eliminate her risk for developing breast cancer.
At the Neaman Center for Personalized Medicine, we take a team approach to care with clinical geneticists, genetic counselors and genetic counselor assistants working together to answer patient questions and concerns. We also work closely with each patient’s primary care provider to determine next steps and the most appropriate care for each individual.