Men still shunning prostate tests

Despite efforts to subsidise the cost for the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) diagnostic test, acting executive director of the Jamaica Cancer Society Michael Leslie not many men are getting tested.

The Government announced last year that the PSA test would now be covered under the National Health Fund’s (NHF) Individual Benefits Programme, where males over 40 years who are enrolled on the NHF can now access the test.

The subsidy on the PSA tests is set at $1,600 per test with a maximum allowance of one test per year.

Speaking at the Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange, Leslie said even though he is not seeing an increase in the number of males coming to the Cancer Society for the PSA test, he hopes they are getting assessed elsewhere at other medical institutions.

“We are not seeing the men yet. I encourage our men to really come and get your prostrate tests done. Not just at the Jamaica Cancer Society but other medical facilities,” he said.

Prostrate is the leading cancer in Jamaica,” Leslie told Observer editors and journalists.

“That [subsidy] is one of the initiatives that the Ministry of Health and Wellness has put in place to encourage men to come out and get screened. Probably it’s too early to say yet, but we are hoping that this initiative by the ministry will actually encourage men to come forward and get their prostate tested,” he added.

Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey 2016/2017 data showed that 28.2 per cent of Jamaican men 40 years and older had ever done a digital rectal examination (DRE) to check on their prostate.

Leslie stressed that there needs to be more public education to encourage Jamaican men to check their prostate.

“We all know that the prostate screening involves two phases — blood test which is easy and the DRE exam which involves the urologist feeling the actual prostate which cannot be touched without going through the anus and our Jamaican men have a stigma against that,” he said.

“Our job is difficult because we need to be educating the men that it is a small test, small touch. We are trying our utmost best in different means to educate our men that if you can detect prostate cancer early with that small touch, it could save you millions of dollars; if you don’t do it and you’re diagnosed with prostate cancer, the cost for treatment is a lot of money,” he said.