EDITORIAL: Prostate tests vital
Discussion on the topic Men In Crisis often refers to why and how males are failing to live up to their responsibilities as fathers, partners, breadwinners and positive role models.
It often centres, too, on the seeming lack of ambition among many young males, their overwhelming sense of hopelessness, the level of violence among them and drug dependence.
When the health aspect of this crisis is raised, the major areas usually touched on among young males are disability due to violence or accidents, as well as mental problems caused by illegal drug use: strokes, hypertension and heart problems in middle-aged men; and prostate cancer in the older ones.
Each of these areas accounts for the deaths of the majority of Barbadian men annually. That’s why doctors often appeal to men to get regular check-ups to know their health status.
It is against this unfortunate background that the gesture by the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) to encourage more Barbadian men to undergo screening for prostate cancer by offering a 50 per cent reduction in the fees for the prostate specific antigen (PSA) test every Friday this month, is such a positive development.
Barbados has the second highest incidence of prostate cancer in the world per capita, and is estimated to have one of the highest mortality rates in the world, with more than 100 men dying each year.
The PSA is a blood test which is used worldwide as a screening tool for prostate cancer. A small sample of blood is taken and then sent to a laboratory for analysis. The level of PSA is then reported back to the patient’s physician, who will analyse the results.
Because it is a blood test, the PSA tends to be preferred over the digital rectal examination (DRE) which involves the insertion of the doctor’s finger into the rectum to feel for any abnormalities.
In our culture the DRE is still considered somewhat taboo and forbidden. That’s why so many men tend to avoid getting one done. And, maybe, that is why over the last decade, prostate cancer has been one of the major killers of Barbadian men.
Since early detection of any abnormalities of the prostate is crucial to saving lives, the gesture being offered by the QEH’s chief executive officer Dr Dexter James, in an attempt to raise awareness about the disease and encourage more men to be tested, must be lauded.
“We are also encouraging all private physicians and providers of medical insurance to encourage patients and policyholders, respectively, to take advantage of this preferential rate.
“The old adage that ‘prevention is better than cure’ is a fitting metaphor in support of the early detection and treatment of prostate cancer when it is diagnosed early,” said James in announcing the offer, which will be available to both nationals and non-nationals at $35 and $45.50 respectively.
The CEO explained that patients would be able to collect their results 48 hours after the tests are done, and the results should then be taken to a doctor for interpretation.
Head of the QEH’s Urology Department, Dr Jerry Emtage, stressed the importance of early diagnosis, explaining that without it the cost of care was prohibitive and can be as high as $15 000 to $20 000 per month. It therefore makes sense to get a PSA to know one’s prostate health status early.
The QEH’s gesture coincides with the Movember initiative, spearheaded every November by the Barbados Cancer Society. This involves a commitment from men to grow a moustache during the month while soliciting funds for the society’s men’s health programme.
We encourage all men, in particular, to support this worthwhile venture. Even more so, we urge all men who have not already done so, to get their prostate check done. Your life may depend on it.