Prostate cancer council bill earns AUA support

October 10, 2014

The effort to draw attention to the importance of prostate cancer detection was given a big boost in September when conservative Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AR) and liberal Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) joined together to sponsor legislation to create the National Prostate Cancer Council.

Washington-The effort to draw attention to the importance of prostate cancer detection was given a big boost in September when conservative Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AR) and liberal Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) joined together to sponsor legislation to create the National Prostate Cancer Council.

According to a statement by the two lawmakers, the council’s mission would be to develop and carry out a national strategy to improve screening, assessment, early detection, and monitoring of prostate cancer.

“Testing and early detection are the keys to combat this disease. When identified early, the survival rate for prostate cancer is very high. We need to ensure that we have the most advanced screening tools available, and this legislation is a step in the right direction,” said Sessions, a prostate cancer survivor.

“Prostate cancer is one of the leading threats to the health and lives of the men of this country,” Boxer said. “We owe it to our families to do all we can to fight this deadly disease.”

 

Would coordinate research efforts

The council, should it be created by Congress, would be charged with developing a national plan for accelerated creation of diagnostic tools; providing information and coordination of prostate cancer research and services among the federal agencies; reviewing the current diagnostic tools and their effectiveness; evaluating all prostate cancer programs, including federal budget requests; reporting to both the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Congress; and ensuring that high-risk men be included in any strategy.

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Boxer is no newcomer to the effort to improve prostate cancer detection. In 2012, she and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) sponsored the Prostate Cancer Detection Research and Education Act, intended to improve research and detection of prostate cancer.

That measure would have increased federal funding for prostate cancer research. It called for a panel of leading medical experts to be created to work toward the ultimate goal of developing an accurate test that can detect prostate cancer and diagnose its severity.

The AUA said it supports the new Sessions-Boxer bill, S. 2813.

“Although this measure was just introduced, the goals for the council outlined in S. 2813-such as improving prostate cancer screening and early detection-very much align with the AUA’s advocacy priorities,” said David F. Penson, MD, MPH, the AUA’s Public Policy Council chair. He said the AUA “would be encouraged” to see the bill “gain bipartisan traction during the remainder of the 113th Congress.”

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Approval urged for USPSTF legislation

The AUA is also urging approval of legislation sponsored by Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE), the Healthy Families Act of 2014, which would make the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) more transparent and open to the public. The AUA is asking members to help garner lawmaker support for the senator’s bill, S. 2574.

It was the USPSTF in 2012 that recommended against the use of PSA testing in all men. In 2013, AUA issued new guidelines that support the use of PSA in a “more targeted manner,” but says that all men ages 55 to 69 years who are in good health and have more than a 10- to 15-year life expectancy “should have the choice to be tested and not discouraged from doing so.”

The AUA also noted in its guidelines that the USPSTF panel that developed the 2012 recommendations did not include representation from the urology community.

“As the physicians most experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer, we feel that urologists should be involved in the development of prostate cancer screening recommendations to ensure that the guidance is evidence-based and also targets the preferences of individual patients,” the AUA said in its guideline document.

The AUA, of course, has been an ardent supporter of prostate cancer detection initiatives and research, and on Sept. 18 Dr. Penson wrote to senators urging their support for passage of Sessions’ resolution designating September 2014 as “National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.”

“The AUA strongly supports this resolution, which declares that steps should be taken to raise awareness about the importance of prostate cancer screening methods and treatments, to increase prostate cancer research funding, and to improve access to and quality of health care services for detecting and treating prostate cancer,” Dr. Penson wrote.

The resolution, which was passed unanimously by the Senate, also called on the nation to take an active role in promoting prostate cancer awareness “and the fight to end the devastating effects of prostate cancer,” said Dr. Penson.

The letter pointed out that prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths among men in the U.S., with estimates of 230,000 new cases and 29,000 deaths in 2014. Although one in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime, the AUA said, odds increase to one in five if they are African-American and one in three if there is a family history of prostate cancer.

“Educating people about prostate cancer and early detection strategies is crucial to saving the lives of these men, and ongoing research can improve prostate cancer prevention, early detection, and treatment. We applaud Senator Jeff Sessions and encourage you to join him in supporting this resolution to further prostate cancer awareness,” Dr. Penson said.

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