BUCKHANNON — The Buckhannon Rotary Club and St. Joseph’s Hospital are once again teaming up to stage the club’s annual spring blood screening — and although the first event is scheduled to take place this Saturday, April 1, the importance of getting tested is no joke.
That’s the message Dr. Bartley Brown, an internist with St. Joseph’s Hospital, delivered to Rotarians at the Buckhannon Rotary Club’s regular meeting on Tuesday at noon. The blood screenings will take place on two consecutive Saturdays – April 1 and April 8 – from 6:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. at two locations, Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School and the Community Care Clinic in Rock Cave.
A longtime community service project of Rotary, the screenings offer basic blood profile tests for only $35, a savings of 90 percent, according to a hospital press release. The following tests will be available for an additional charge: optional testing for colon cancer and thyroid screening is $5 apiece; a PSA or prostate cancer screening costs $20; and a hemoglobin A1C test for diabetes is $15.
Brown, who graduated from the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine in 2009 and has seven years of practice under his belt, said the most important tests are the ones that monitor liver and kidney functioning as well as cholesterol and blood counts.
“We talked last year about the importance of all these things, especially for some of our patients who are on quite a bit of medication, and it’s good to know what it is doing to your liver, what it is doing to your kidneys, blood counts and those things, and of course, not just for monitoring purposes, but for screening purposes,” Bartley said. “Kidney and liver tests are the most important to me, personally, but also blood counts are important, too, because as we get older we see many types of cancer and things of this nature.”
Brown encourages male patients to fork out the extra money for a PSA, or prostate cancer screening, since the chances of developing the disease increases as a person ages.
“There are more incidents of prostate cancer because people are living longer and the longer they live, the more likely they are to have it, so it’s very important to know what the PSA is doing over time,” Brown said.
Brown said that although Medicare doesn’t consider an annual PSA necessary, he believes it’s absolutely essential.
“If it’s [the PSA] elevated, it could just be benign inflammation, but by knowing that, we can treat that,” the doctor explained. “But if it is cancer, there’s a couple of things to remember. For prostate cancer, there are many treatments, and probably the most common one we hear about is a radical prostatectomy because by the time a guy is symptomatic enough, there’s only one cure and that’s surgery — radical surgery.”
However, if prostate cancer is detected early enough through a PSA test, doctors are able to perform a procedure called seed therapy, whereby tiny radioactive seeds that shrink the cancer are injected into the prostate. Brown said a positive by-product of seed therapy is less radiation and damage to other organs, especially the colon.
“Again, Medicare says no, but my opinion is yes, yes,” Brown said.
Another important test is the Hemoglobin A1C, which measures a person’s average levels of blood glucose over the previous three months and is helpful in detecting diabetes as well as pre-diabetes conditions, Brown said.
“It’s more accurate than just a glucose test because that’s just measuring one point in time,” Brown said. “That’s important to know, but it’s also better to know what that sugar is doing over a 90-day period.”
Brown additionally recommended individuals be tested for colon cancer via a fecal occult blood test annually, prior to receiving colonoscopies every year beginning at age 50. However, if you have a family member who developed colon cancer, colon cancer screenings should begin 10 years prior to the age at which the family member discovered he or she had cancer, Brown said.
Brown urged Rotarians to have their results sent to their primary care physician. Often, when individuals opt to have the records sent straight to their homes, a doctor never sees the results, and consequently, does not have an opportunity to read it.
“If you get it sent to you, you at least need to call your PCP (primary care provider) when you get your results and have them look at it, because unless it’s sent to me, I don’t know it’s been done,” Brown said.
No appointments are necessary for the April 1 and April 8 blood screenings; however, fasting for 12 hours prior to testing is required. Only payments via cash or check will be accepted.