Big news yesterday. Two studies that have been going on over the last 10 years threw a lot of doubt as to the value of the PSA (prostate specific antigen) test as it pertains to prostate cancer. Are the recommended annual tests going to go by the wayside and what impact, if any, will it have on life insurance?
Prostate cancer is the 2nd most common cancer among men and while, as the urban myth goes, if you live long enough you will have prostate cancer, the good news is that prostate cancer has a very high survival rate. While 1 in 6 men will be diagnosed (even though far more will live long lives undiagnosed) with prostate cancer during their life time, only 1 in 35 of those diagnosed will die from the cancer.
The early detection test of choice over the past few decades has been the PSA test. Most doctors recommend that men over 50 have the test once a year. PSA isn’t actually a test for prostate cancer, but rather a test for enlargement of the prostate. The issue that the recently completed studies has brought to the forefront is that, since the tests don’t actually tell whether there is cancer or not, and a positive result usually leads to an invasive needle biopsy which has inherent dangers of its’ own, is the test a good idea at all.
Prostate cancer, because of it’s high survival rate, is ultimately one of the most insurable cancers from a life insurance standpoint. Prostate cancer with a Gleason grade of 6 or less can bring standard or better rates as little as a year after treatment. Compared with other cancers such as colon or bladder cancer that can have, depending on stage and grade, uninsurable periods of five years or more, bladder cancer in most cases can have you back in the insurable ranks in fairly short order.
While the medical community considers whether to continue recommending the PSA test, it will remain a standard test on life insurance exams, and an elevated PSA will cause a postpone (temporary decline) until it is proven to be caused by something other than cancer. I don’t see an immediate clash coming from these differing views, there may be a point where insurance companies refuse to issue without further testing and doctors are recommending no testing. Could be interesting.
Bottom line. For now what is important is knowing that, given the outlets available to independent agents, life insurance for prostate cancer survivors is generally available and generally very affordable.