Last year, the U.S. government announced that it will start paying for hereditary cancer screenings through its Medicare program. Now, one West Side entrepreneur is on a mission to make sure that senior citizens in communities like Austin know about the screenings and start taking advantage of them. 

Marseil “Action” Jackson, the founder of the Jackson Action Coalition — a nonprofit community organizing group based on the West Side — was on hand on Jan. 13, at MacArthur’s Restaurant, 5412 W. Madison St., to provide area seniors with free breakfast and information on the screenings. 

Saturday’s breakfast was the first in an ongoing series of free breakfast events that Jackson will hold in order to get the word out about the opportunity for Medicare-eligible patients to undergo tests to find out if they have a genetic mutation that could put them at greater risk of developing certain cancers. 

“Cancer-causing genetic changes can also be acquired during one’s lifetime, as the result of errors that occur as cells divide or from exposure to carcinogenic substances that damage DNA, such as certain chemicals in tobacco smoke, and radiation, such as ultraviolet rays from the sun. Genetic changes that occur after conception are called somatic (or acquired) changes,” according to information on the website of the National Cancer Institute.  

According to the Institute, genetic mutations play a role in anywhere from 5 and 10 percent of all cancers. 

 “With genetic testing for cancer, we can test markers earlier and do preventive care like proper dieting and exercise, along with prescribing a variety of medications, to reduce that risk,” said Larry Wilkes, the owner of Wilkes Wellness Center, a primary care service provider that covers the north suburbs. 

Wilkes is also affiliated with Dream Team Enterprises — a West Side marketing firm that was one of the main sponsors that funded the breakfast along with the Jackson Action Coalition. 

Wilkes said that genetic testing is as sample as a patient sitting for a cheek swab and waiting for the results to come back from a lab. 

Jackson said that he’ll host a free breakfast for seniors to notify them about the screenings every fourth Saturday of each month. Doors open at 8 a.m. The first 100 seniors eat free.