In today’s workplace, insurance and retirement benefits are expected. Health insurance, dental and vision plans are commonplace as well. But at OMRF, employees and their families can take advantage of a unique employee benefit—a breast cancer risk assessment test.
On Friday, 80 women—OMRF employees and spouses—will take the OncoVue breast cancer risk assessment test. This will be the second installment of testing at OMRF. When OMRF first offered the testing in December, the session filled up in less than a day, necessitating a second session. All told, more than 150 women will be tested as part of OMRF’s initiative.
More than 15 years ago, scientists at OMRF began to look at genetic factors present in women who developed breast cancer. After gathering and analyzing samples from more than 10,000 volunteers, they developed a test that gives a woman reliable assessment of her lifetime risk for breast cancer. That test, OncoVue, is now available in selected clinics nationwide and costs approximately $400.
OMRF employees and their spouses were offered the testing at a significantly reduced cost—a $20 co-pay while OMRF paid the balance of the costs.
“We are offering the testing to our employees for two reasons,” said OMRF President Stephen Prescott, M.D. “First, we wanted to give them an opportunity to take advantage of a technology they helped create, either in the lab or as volunteers. Plus, as part of our wellness initiative, this is just one more way to help our employees and their families take charge of their health.”
Dr. Craig Shimasaki, president of InterGenetics, the Oklahoma company that produces the OncoVue test, said OMRF is setting a precedent that other employer should follow.
“As the first Oklahoma company to offer OncoVue testing as a wellness benefit, OMRF is taking a proactive stance for the health and well-being of its employees,” he said. “And their decision to provide this test is more than a perk. It could literally save lives down the road.”
Melissa Craft, the genetic counselor who will conduct the testing, emphasized that the test does not identify cancer itself. “OncoVue helps a woman predict her risk of developing breast cancer in her lifetime,” she said. “Because 80 percent of breast cancers occur in women with no family history, it’s important for all women to know their personal degree of risk. The statistics tell us which factors a patient has in her genetic makeup, and we can advise her about what precautions to take if her risk is especially high.”
In the past, people often avoided genetic testing for fear of being refused insurance coverage or turned down for employment if testing showed them at high risk of developing a particular disease. But last year, Congress passed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, which prohibits using genetic information to deny benefits, raise insurance premiums or to make decisions about hiring or firing.
The results will be made available only to those taking the tests—not to OMRF or insurance companies. And those who take the test will have access to genetic counselors, which will be available to help them interpret their test results.
“I hope this test will help me gain information for myself and that I can pass on to my daughters,” said one woman who took the test at the December session.
“I’ve always wanted to take this test because of my family history and for my children’s sake,” said another woman who took the test in December. “But without this opportunity, I never could have afforded to do this. I’m grateful to OMRF for providing me with this chance to look into my future.”
For more information about OncoVue, visit www.oncovuetest.com or call 1-866-662-6883.