Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Prostate (PSA) Tests

Quick Facts:
  • The Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) test is a blood test that measures the amount of PSA in the blood. PSA is produced by the prostate and is normally in a man's blood in small amounts.
  • An elevated PSA level may indicate prostate cancer, but elevated PSA levels does not necessarily mean a man has cancer. Other factors - infection of the prostate gland, for example - can also cause PSA levels to rise.
  • Men older than 50 are at the highest risk of developing the disease.
  • In 2008, about 8,900 Ontario men were diagnosed with prostate cancer last year, and 1,650 died from it.
The Ontario government has passed a new laws regarding this issue. There is more information on their website. Suffice it to say that any test that will diagnose and begin a treatment plan is an important one.

In the past, the test was only available at hospitals. Under the new law a physician will be able to order the test under new guidelines. Unfortunately, they still don't have it right. The guidelines limit the test to diagnosis, not screening. The intent, methinks, is to screen out asymptomatic men for prostate cancer. Instead, we are back to square one where those who can least afford it must cough up $30 for this test. We know how much can be saved by screening and preventing costly treatments.

Jonathan Jenkins wrote, "NDP MPP Peter Kormos said the tests should be free for everyone and the province is needlessly complicating the issue by insisting on a distinction between tests for diagnosis and monitoring, which are insured, and tests for screening, which aren't. "

Richard Bercuson (Ottawa Citizen) wrote, "Last Nov. 6, our Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, David Caplan, confirmed in the Legislative Assembly, "... we will be covering the cost of PSA testing in Ontario, in keeping with our commitments, starting Jan. 1."

and
"The Ministry's Dec. 16, 2008, bulletin states the test will be covered under OHIP "when it's ordered by a primary care provider for men who meet the test's clinical guidelines." But if you don't have a primary care provider or meet those ominous 'clinical guidelines,'you pay."

If you want more information about prostate cancer or the PSA test, ask your doctor or call the Canadian Cancer Society toll-free at 1-888-939-3333.

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