TORONTO, Feb. 9 /CNW/ - The Ontario government recently announced that
OHIP will now cover the cost of a PSA test if it is authorized by a physician
or nurse practitioner. Until now, Ontario men had to pay $30 to have the test
administered. Further, the government has authorized community labs to do the
test rather than just hospital labs. This makes it much easier for men to
receive the test.
The Canadian Prostate Cancer Network (CPCN), the voice of prostate cancer
in Canada(R) has long advocated the necessity of free annual PSA testing for
men beginning at age 40. The test measures PSA (prostate-specific antigen)
that is found in the bloodstream. A high PSA score, or a score that is higher
than the benchmark score established at age 40, can indicate the presence of
prostate cancer. Although the test does produce false positives, as do
mammograms, the PSA test remains the most effective way of discovering
prostate cancer at its earliest, and most treatable, stage.
The government policy advises the physician or nurse practitioner to
"order a PSA test for patients considered to be at risk of prostate cancer due
to family history, their own health history, or their race." Ontario Health
Minister David Caplan notes, "Contrary to some misconceptions, a man does not
need to be showing symptoms of prostate cancer in order to get a free PSA
test. Also, there is no age condition for a free, OHIP-insured test." This
leaves the health professional with a lot of latitude in ordering a PSA test.
Arguably, all men are at risk since one in eight Canadian men will get
While most physicians will read this policy and begin regular PSA testing
for their male patients at age 40, a number will read it in its narrowest
sense and order a PSA test only after a DRE (digital rectal examination)
reveals an abnormality in the prostate. CPCN argues that many men with
prostate cancer pass a DRE thereby allowing the cancer to grow unchecked-and
the PSA test is the best current remedy of this situation.
If a patient asks for a PSA test from a doctor or nurse practitioner
under the current guidelines, he is at the mercy of the medical professional's
opinion of the effectiveness of the test. If the doctor refuses to order a
free PSA test, the patient can either pay for it himself or go to another
Murray Gordon, a director of CPCN, argues that what is needed is "an
all-inclusive policy that allows all men, who feel it is in their best
interests, access to PSA testing at no cost." While the current policy falls
short of this ideal, CPCN thinks that the government's intention is to provide
medical professionals with the latitude to order a PSA test for men whether or
not these men are showing symptoms, and this is a big step in the right
direction. Unfortunately, in some ways, the government's policy parallels W.
L. M. King's ambiguous remark about conscription, so, for now, it is "the PSA
test if necessary but not necessarily the PSA test."
For further information: Derek Lawrence, Holland Landing, ON, (905)
853-2665, Email email@example.com; Murray Gordon, Carp, ON, K0A 1L0, (613)
839-6118, firstname.lastname@example.org; Wally Seeley, Lakefield, ON, K0L 2H0, Phone:
(705) 652-9200, email email@example.com