British Columbia

Prostate tests should be free: B.C. NDP

New Democrats in B.C. are calling for the province to cover the cost of a prostate cancer screening test that can detect the cancer early.

New Democrats in B.C. are calling for the province to cover the cost of a prostate cancer screening test that can detect the cancer early.

B.C. is one of four provinces that don't pay for a test known as PSA.

Deputy NDP health critic Sue Hammell said Monday she plans to introduce a private member's bill in the legislature in an effort to have the test funded.

Hammell, whose 47-year-old stepson has terminal prostate cancer, said making men pay for the test makes it seem unimportant and can stop men with lower incomes from being screened.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men, according to the Canadian Cancer Society.

The BC Cancer Agency says PSA testing can detect the disease about five and a half years earlier than a physical exam.

False positives a concern

There is controversy over the accuracy of PSA testing and whether it leads to over-diagnosis and over-treatment.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. does not recommend PSA testing for men who do not show any other symptoms of prostate cancer, due to the high number of false positive test results.

False positives can lead to unnecessary and sometimes dangerous medical interventions.

Studies in the U.S. and Europe in 2009 tracked the health of more than 250,000 men. The U.S. study found no benefit from cancer screening, while the other study concluded there was a 20 per cent reduction in deaths.

Alberta, Ontario and Quebec also do not have prostate screening programs, while all other provinces and territories do.

With files from The Canadian Press

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