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Editor’s Column: Get in the van, man

It’s just a blood test. Really!

Scott was happy to have an air-conditioned place to sit down for a few minutes during the busy Ag in Motion show. Taking the actual blood sample took almost no time at all.

We’ve all seen the “Man Van” at farm shows. I’m not sure what I thought was going on in there, but it turns out there are a crew of volunteers taking simple, five-second blood samples to find out if you (or the man next to you) have prostate cancer.

I saw this up close at the Ag in Motion farm show near Saskatoon on July 17, when I dragged Grainews machinery editor Scott Garvey up to the van to see what was going on.

The process couldn’t have been simpler. Scott filled out a form, then was taken inside the van and seated in a comfortable chair. The technician who took the sample was so fast, I barely had time to take photos of the high-tech setup inside the back of the van before Scott’s blood sample had been drawn and he was being sent back outside.

The intake process was quick and painless. A volunteer who had dealt with prostate cancer himself was on hand to talk to anyone with questions. photo: Leeann Minogue

Once they have your blood sample, the Man Van staff will test your PSA level — prostate specific antigen. A high PSA level in a man’s bloodstream can be an early indicator of prostate cancer. Many men with prostate cancer have no other symptoms or warning signs.

While they have all the testing equipment and lab technicians they need to test the sample right in the van, they will not give you your results while you’re at the farm show. Instead, they’ll mail them to your house and give you an opportunity to talk things over with your doctor.

Statistics say that one in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Scott was relieved to get a letter saying his blood is prostate cancer free. But if the Man Van staff had found potential signs of cancer, it would have been good to have caught it early, while treatments could still be effective.

In the back of the van, the technical staff have all the equipment they need to test blood samples. But they won’t give you your results while you’re at the show. photo: Leeann Minogue

The Man Van offers free testing, thanks to many sponsors. The van on the show site was sponsored by Nutrien, Bayer and AGAT Labs. The Canadian Canola Growers Association sponsored the clinic, and Glacier FarmMedia provided the space at the show. The next time you see this van, if you’re a 40- to 80-year-old male, get in there (or drag the man you’re with up to the intake table).

It’s just a blood test. Really.

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