A controversial test has now been made available for online purchase and at-home use
MyHealthTest, an online provider of blood test services, has now added the Prostatic Specific Antigen (PSA) test to its range of offerings including tests for diabetes (HbA1c), thyroid, and cholesterol.
The at-home prostate test is a simple fingerprick test that measures the level of PSA in a person’s blood.
“MyHealthTest makes blood testing easy and convenient, and allows customers and their healthcare providers to view, track and share results on a secure platform,” says the company in its announcement.
“Home pathology tests are especially attractive to those unable to get regular blood tests due to mobility issues, distance, or simply being time poor.”
According to Andrology Australia, PSA is the first line test to check for a man’s risk of prostate cancer.
However the test has been controversial due to claims of overdiagnosis and high numbers of false positives.
While prostate cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australian men (after skin cancer) – accounting for approximately 33% of male cancers diagnosed each year – current clinical practice guidelines do not recommend a population screening program for prostate cancer.
According to an overview of guidelines published by the Prostate Foundation of Australia and Cancer Council Australia in 2016, and approved by the NHMRC, this is because PSA testing is known to carry both benefits and harms.
“While PSA testing is widely used, there is still debate over whether it offers men net benefit,” say the Prostate Foundation and Cancer Council.
“A proportion of prostate cancers detected as a result of PSA tests would never have bothered the men in whom they were detected had they not been tested. Such cancers are commonly referred to as over-diagnosed cancers.
“Over-diagnosis is estimated to be as high as 20-40% of prostate cancers diagnosed following a positive PSA test.”
The guidelines explain that a family history of prostate cancer, especially having a male first-degree relative diagnosed with prostate cancer before age 65 years, increases a man’s risk of developing it.
MyHealthTest’s test can be easily purchased online – with few questions asked.
However its website targets men over 50 and those with a family history of prostate cancer, noting that PSA tests should not be used for:
- Men under 40 years who have no family history of prostate cancer
- Men older than 70 (unless recommended by your doctor)
The page includes suggestions that the test should be done in consultation with a doctor, and cautions that a high PSA level does not mean the tester has prostate cancer.
“There are many other causes of elevated PSA,” says MyHealthTest on its website.
“PSA is not specific to cancer – a higher PSA result can also indicate other prostate issues, like an enlarged prostate or an infection.
“If you record a higher PSA than the expected level for your age group (provided with your test results), please consult your doctor.”
In addition to one-off tests, MyHealthTest offers a subscription option for PSA tests to perform active surveillance.
“Some men diagnosed with low-risk prostate cancer may decide against immediate treatment due to the side effects of surgery and radiotherapy,” reads the website.
“A PSA test every three to six months (along with physical examination and biopsies) can be used to monitor your condition. This will indicate whether the cancer gets worse and needs treatment”.