Chances are, if you’ve gotten screened for prostate cancer, or have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, you have had a PSA test. Your doctors may have even referred to your cancer in terms of your PSA.
Along with your Gleason Score, your PSA becomes the second most important number in your life, one that comes to define you and your struggle. You may know the basics, but PSA levels and tests tend to be a little bit more complicated.
If you have been diagnosed with prostate cancer or have had a high PSA levels, chances are you’ve felt the fear and anxiety associated with those numbers. If you’ve ever tried to get a life insurance policy with high PSA levels, your fear and anxiety likely doubled as you’ve faced rejection after rejection.
By arming you with the knowledge you need about your PSA levels, and connecting you with knowledgeable insurance carriers who see you as more than the results of a test, we can help.
What is PSA?
PSA, or prostate specific antigen, is a protein found in the prostate, a small gland between the bladder and the penis. An antigen is a toxin that induces a bodily immune response, specifically the production of blood proteins called antibodies. It’s completely normal for low levels of PSA to be in your blood stream.
The PSA test is designed to detect the possibility of cancer by measuring the level of PSAs found in your blood. The PSA levels in the bloodstream are measured in nanograms per milliliter of blood. Up to 4 ng/mL is considered normal. Anything higher than that could indicate the need for further evaluation, and brand you as a potential risk to insurance underwriters.
Does a High PSA Really Make Me High Risk?
The PSA test has recently caused a debate in the medical community. Some doctors are on the fence about whether these tests and their results can cause unnecessary stress in a patient or they can be used to save lives.
Firstly, doctors disagree on when the test should be administered. The American Urological Association believes the tests should be started in men at the age of 40. The American Cancer Society believes that PSA tests do not need to be administered in healthy males until the age of 50.
In order to figure out if and when you should have the test, talk to your doctor. They’ll be familiar with your family medical history – as well as your personal health background – and will be able to administer the test at the appropriate time.
Many doctors believe that the commonly administered tPSA test, or total PSA test, is not a reliable indicator of prostate cancer. This is concerning because most insurance companies include the PSA test in routine physical examinations when you apply for coverage.
The accuracy of the test is also called into question by the presence of false positives. In some cases, men with high PSA levels have had no other signs of cancer. These false positives can lead to unnecessary biopsies, which can cause anxiety and depression in the patients. The PSA test can also result in false negatives, where a patient has cancer, but does not have the accompanying elevated PSA levels.
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Does a High PSA Indicate a Risk of Cancer?
Typically, the more elevated the results of the PSA test are, the more likely a patient has cancer. However, an elevated PSA does not necessarily have to indicate cancer. These levels typically rise for a variety of reasons, including age, ethnicity, prostate volume, prostate infections, or urological procedures.
Certain medicines can also cause PSA levels to rise, as can the presence of testosterone and other hormones.
Prostatitis, or a temporary inflammation of the prostate gland, can also lead to high PSA levels. Many factors can cause this inflammation, including bacterial infections, chemical irritation, irritation caused by urine backup into the prostate, or a nerve problem in the lower urinary tract.
Is There a Better Indicator of Prostate Cancer?
The creation of a new test, the Complexed PSA test, or cPSA test, may be able to reduce the uncertainty caused by the commonly administered tPSA test.
Studies have found that patients with prostate cancer have prostate specific antigens that attach to particular proteins in the bloodstream. The cPSA test looks for these bonds, and is able to diagnose the presence of cancer with fewer false positives. This means also eliminating unnecessary biopsies, stress, and anxiety in cancer-free patients.
Should I Get a PSA Screening?
Despite the uncertainty, you should not write off the PSA test without discussing it with a qualified medical professional. Always consult your doctor before making important medical decisions.
The PSA test can be a useful monitoring tool for men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Often, when prostate cancer is detected, it grows so slowly that traditional treatment is not recommended at all.
Many doctors opt for an “active surveillance” policy of closely monitoring the tumor. This is where traditional PSA tests save lives. This active surveillance process for low risk cancers involves repeating biopsies and monitoring not only current PSA levels, but their rate of growth.
In cancer patients who have sought active treatment, this monitoring allows doctors to see if the cancer is responding to treatment or, if the patient is in remission, if the cancer has come back.
At the end of the day, your PSA results are one small part of your overall health. For those currently going through treatment, PSA scores should be considered along with biopsy results and your Gleason Score.
PSA Screening and Life Insurance Coverage
The question of to test or not to test is ultimately the decision of you and your doctor. However most insurance companies include PSA tests with lab test coverage for a reason. Underwriters will require a PSA test when considering you for coverage, despite its questionable accuracy.
If your PSA is high, they will want to know the causes and how they are being addressed. Often, the lack of a PSA test will result in declined coverage.
If you decide not to have a PSA screening done in addition to other medical precautions, we can help you find a company that allows you to apply for coverage without the PSA test. Our network will be able to connect you with brokers who will consider your medical records, and all additional factors in order to provide you with the best coverage possible.
Your PSA score does not define your cancer and it should not define your coverage. Affordable life insurance coverage may still be available, even if you have an elevated PSA.
Contact a professional insurance agent, like myself, with experience in PSA’s and prostate cancer to find out what your best options are.