On Oct. 5, Island Prostate Centre offered free prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests to folks at Tillicum Centre in honour of Country Grocer Men’s Health Day.
The PSA test is a screening for prostate cancer and involves a simple blood draw, explained Leanne Kopp, executive director of Island Prostate Centre. Then, the sample is sent to the lab to be tested. It’s not covered in B.C. or Ontario, so normally folks need to pay $35 for the test. However, with the help of various sponsors, Island Prostate Centre is able to offer the test for free on Men’s Health Day.
The cost barrier along with a lack of family doctors and long waits at walk-ins, it can be tough to motivate men to get tested, Kopp noted. Plus, men are often embarrassed to talk about prostate health.
Prostate cancer treatment has a 90 per cent success rate if it’s caught early, Kopp emphasized. The free event at Tillicum mall makes testing accessible and helps men “be proactive in keeping good health.”
“We’re here to help and it’s okay to talk about prostate health,” she said. “It’s not embarrassing, it’s your life.”
The testing was set to run form 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., but there was a line up of about 300 men before 9 a.m., Kopp noted. By 1 p.m., over 500 men had been tested. The results will be mailed to the men directly and Island Prostate centre will follow up with anyone who receives an abnormal result.
Kopp emphasized that one abnormal result is not conclusive. A repeat PSA test would need to be done to assess if prostate cancer is present.
The Island Prostate Centre has been offering free testing days for 16 years, said Kopp. Over 11,400 men have been tested and about 400 had abnormal results that were caught thanks to the free PSA test.
“We’ve saved a lot of lives over the years,” said Kopp.
Men over 50 are encouraged to get tested annually. If there’s a family history of prostate cancer then it’s recommended to start earlier.
Aside from the free PSA test, men were also offered free blood pressure assessments, hearing tests and medical consultations at the mall on Saturday. Volunteers noted they’re looking forward to seeing everyone come back for a free test again next year.