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Early Detection Saves Lives

Did You Know

Prostate cancer kills more than 34,000 American men every year, making it the second leading cancer-related cause of death for men. Early detection is the key to successfully treating prostate cancer and lowering the mortality rate. When detected early, the chance of five-year survival is nearly 100 percent. However, if the cancer is left unchecked and allowed to spread beyond the region of the prostate, the chance of five-year survival drops to 29 percent.

The most common prostate cancer test is the PSA, or prostate-specific antigen test. This is a simple blood test that measures the presence of PSA circulating in your bloodstream. This test is usually the first step in any prostate cancer diagnosis. 

Current Policy

On April 11, 2017, the USPSTF released their draft recommendation for the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening, upgrading their recommendation from a "D" grade to a "C" grade. This means that the USPSTF concludes “there is at least moderate certainty that the net benefit is small.” In other words, the USPSTF's new draft recommendation says that men aged 55-69 should consult with their doctors about the potential benefits and harms of the PSA-based screening. 

The USPSTF recommendation applies to all men from the ages of 55-69, even men at increased risk, such as African American men and those with a family history. However, ZERO is working with our partner organizations to help fill the research gaps for at-risk populations identified in the USPSTF's draft recommendation statement

Why We’re Concerned

By law, health insurance companies must cover USPSTF “A” and “B” recommended preventive screenings.  Further, the law prohibits insurance companies from requiring patients to pay for the “A” and “B” rated screenings. 

The “C” grade is important because it means that insurance companies:

  1. Do not have to cover the PSA-test and;
  2. Can make patients pay for all or some of the screening even if the insurance company does cover the test.

ZERO’s Efforts

Researchers, with support from the Federal Government and organizations like ZERO, are working to find novel diagnostic methods. For now, we must ensure men have access to PSA screening. A PSA test score is an important part of making a decision of how best to determine a prostate cancer diagnosis and or treatment pathway.

Some members of Congress have also taken an interest in the USPSTF process by re-introducing the USPSTF Transparency and Accountability Act.  Additionally, in May 2016, some members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee sent a detailed letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell regarding the USPSTF recommendations process. Among the twenty questions detailed in the letter are questions related to the prostate cancer recommendation as well as questions about membership and use of experts, procedures, the process used for consistent research, and policies. The HELP Committee members gave the Secretary a deadline of June 3, 2016 to respond.  HHS provided an initial response but has yet to provide a full response to the letter.

How You Can Help

Sign up to be a ZERO advocate today to receive alerts on how to help ensure men have access to early detection methods that can save their lives.