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Posted: September 12, 2018

Free prostate cancer screening tests

By Kevin Higgins

Prostate Cancer continues to kill Canadian men year after year. Even though the death rate from this men’s cancer has been decreasing since 2001, over 4,000 Canadian men are expected to die from prostate cancer in 2018.

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

There has been a lot of controversy in the past few years about the effectiveness of the test for prostate-specific antigen (PSA) to properly detect the disease. The PSA test is a simple blood test that is only a part of the information used to determine whether treatment is advised. And it is up to the patient to decide whether or not to have treatment.

Many prostate cancers are of the slow-growing variety and require no treatment at all. While others are extremely aggressive and result in fatalities.

The Canadian Urological Association states on its website, “there is little question that since PSA was discovered, the rate of death from prostate cancer has decreased, and that PSA, used appropriately, is a helpful test.”

Our BC Health Care plan does not cover the cost of PSA tests for men who have not already been diagnosed with prostate disease or who have not yet shown any symptoms.

The test costs about $35 and for a limited time, the local Prostate Cancer Support Group, through Prostate Cancer Foundation BC, will reimburse men who have paid for the test.

Simply bring your receipt to the September, October or November meeting of the support group and you will receive reimbursement.

The Cranbrook Prostate Cancer Support group meets on the third Wednesday of the month at the College of the Rockies at 7 p.m.

While support groups do not give medical advice, it is a great opportunity for patients to talk with other guys who have been through the treatments and the side effects from them.

Prostate Cancer Foundation BC recommends that men over the age of 40 should start a discussion with their doctor about having a PSA test or a Digital Rectal Exam (DRE). This is to establish a baseline for the individual patient. In this way, later tests showing steady or increasing levels of PSA will be more meaningful.

It is not the raw PSA number that tells you much, but the trend in the number over time. A man who scores a 4.0 on the test three years in a row is in a better place than a man who was at 0.5 two years ago, 1.0 last year and 2.0 today. Doubling scores are very worrisome.

Prostate cancer has no known causes or preventions. We do know that there appears to be a strong genetic link to this disease. Men whose father or brother had prostate cancer should be monitoring their situation closely. Early detection is the key.

When prostate cancer is detected early and the cancer is still within the prostate gland, there is the best chance to beat it with surgery or radiation. But once the cancer has left the prostate, it is said to have metastasized and cannot be cured. There has been some success with prolonging life through hormone therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and, in some cases, radiation.

All prostate cancer treatments seem to come with unwelcome side effects.

For more information about prostate cancer and its effects on the individual, a visit to a support group meeting might be in order.

Information about our local support group can be had from Kevin Higgins (250-427-3322) or from Dennis Parsons (250-489-5249).

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