Metro

Legislators push effort on prostate cancer care

Chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee Stephen Brewer is a prostate cancer survivor.
AP/File 2007
Chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee Stephen Brewer is a prostate cancer survivor.

Three members of the Massachusetts Legislature are speaking out about their own battles against prostate cancer in an effort to elevate awareness of the threat and screening options.

The chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, Stephen Brewer; Senator Kenneth Donnelly; and the vice chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Stephen Kulik, are all prostate cancer survivors and support creation of a statewide program for prostate cancer education and awareness.

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.”

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According to the prostate cancer advocacy nonprofit group AdMeTech, the most common current methods to diagnose the cancer are blood tests and traditional biopsies.

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The American Cancer Society estimates that prostate cancer will kill 29,480 American men this year, with 233,000 being diagnosed with the disease.

At a breakfast last week hosted by AdMeTech, president Faina Shtern said the state of prostate cancer care “is 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.

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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 victims than that of breast cancer patients, the group reports.