WASHINGTON--The American Urological Association (AUA) has urged Congress to pass the Medicare Preventive Benefit Improvement Act of 1997, which would provide coverage for annual prostate cancer screening for Medicare-eligible men over the age of 50. The screening procedures covered would include prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood tests and digital rectal exams.
In testimony before the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Health of the Ways and Means Committee, AUA Secretary William R. Turner, Jr, MD, a urologist at the Medical University of South Carolina, said that the PSA test has greatly enhanced the ability of urologists to diagnose prostate cancer at an early stage when chances of successfully treating the malignancy are high.
"There is now evidence that early detection is beginning to have an impact," Dr. Turner commented. "Prior to the use of PSA, only 30% to 40% of prostate cancer cases were diagnosed at an early stage. Among men getting annual PSA tests, early stage disease is diagnosed 70% to 85% of the time."
In addressing the issue of costs that would occur if the bill were enacted, Dr. Turner testified: "The American Urolog-ical Association urges you to weigh carefully the costs of enactment against the savings that will stem from avoidance of costly palliative therapies and the loss of productive life."