By Mike Deehan
State House News Service
BOSTON -- The American Cancer Society estimates that prostate cancer will kill 29,480 American men this year, with 233,000 being diagnosed with the disease.
Three members of the state Legislature are speaking out about their own battles against prostate cancer in an effort to elevate awareness of the threat and screening options.
Senate Ways and Means Chairman Stephen Brewer, Sen. Kenneth Donnelly and House Ways and Means Vice Chairman Stephen Kulik, all prostate-cancer survivors, support the creation of a statewide prostate-cancer education and awareness program. The goals would be to reach a consensus among stakeholders and experts, and to widely convey those practices to primary-care providers.
Among the practices Brewer and the others want to promote is nonintrusive imaging scans for the prostate, which he called the male equivalent to a mammogram screening for breast cancer in women.
"It is more predominant than breast cancer, but yet the research and the remediation dollars are less than breast cancer," Brewer said. "And so the term for this is 'manograms' instead of mammograms, to have the analysis of your own prostate."
According to the nonprofit prostate-cancer advocacy group AdMeTech, the most common current methods to diagnose the cancer are blood tests and traditional biopsies.
At a breakfast event last week hosted by AdMeTech, President and CEO Faina Shtern said the state of prostate-cancer care "barbaric."
"There's an overwhelming number of unnecessary and failed procedures," Shtern said. "We are here to change that."
Lawmakers hope to make Massachusetts a model state for prostate-cancer awareness and treatment.
Brewer said he and his colleagues are putting a public face on the effort. Brewer said he is "living proof" of successful treatment.
According to a spokeswoman, Brewer has supported funding for prostate cancer in the past, but no decisions have been made yet for the coming fiscal year's budget.
According to AdMeTech, the incidence of the disease is 19 percent higher than that of breast cancer in the state. The fatality rate is 7 percent greater for prostate-cancer patients than that of breast-cancer patients, the group reports.
Among the African-American community, the disease is almost three times more lethal than breast cancer, according to the Boston Public Health Commission. A BPHC report listed 27.5 prostate-cancer deaths per 100,000 Caucasians in Boston, while 71.4 per 100,000 African-Americans die of the disease.
AdMeTech points out that funding for programs that treat, educate or work to prevent prostate cancer is 357 percent lower than similar appropriations for breast cancer. AdMeTech is funded mostly by the National Institutes of Health and other government grants.
According to a spokesman for Shtern, less than 5 percent of the group's annual funding comes from for-profit medical businesses.