By Scot Chadwick
Legislation to improve awareness and increase screening for prostate cancer is on Gov. Wolf’s desk, after unanimous approval by the state House and Senate. SB 609, introduced by Sen. Bob Mensch (R – Berks, Bucks and Montgomery Counties) will establish the Prostate Cancer Surveillance, Education, Detection and Treatment Act.
The measure cites statistics indicating that more than10,000 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer in Pennsylvania in 2011, and that nearly 1,300 died from the disease in that year. Yet, according to Sen. Mensch, as of 2014 Pennsylvania does not provide or disseminate prostate cancer information as part of a public health campaign or message, despite the fact that when diagnosed at an early stage, prostate cancer survival rates are very high.
Under the legislation, the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) will be tasked with the following:
(1) Develop a program of information and education regarding prostate cancer which shall include a uniform set of screening guidelines and the broad spectrum of scientific and treatment options regarding all stages of prostate cancer and related chronic prostate conditions. (2) Develop a program to assist male residents in accessing prostate cancer screening, regardless of insurance coverage. (3) Cooperate with the Insurance Department, Department of Aging and the Department of Human Services to disseminate the information required under paragraph (1) to medical professionals and the general public. (4) Cooperate with professional associations of health care professionals to provide the education program for professionals required under paragraph (1). (5) Identify and apply for public and private grants and funding in order to carry out the provisions of the act.
The DOH is to establish a task force on prostate cancer and related chronic prostate conditions, which is to investigate and make recommendations to the DOH. Physicians will be well represented on the task force, as the bill specifically requires its membership to include two physicians who are knowledgeable concerning treatment of prostate cancer and related chronic prostate conditions and who are board certified in urology, two physicians who are knowledgeable concerning treatment of prostate cancer and related chronic prostate conditions and who are practicing radiation oncologists treating prostate cancer, and an epidemiologist who has expertise in prostate cancer.
The act will expire on June 30, 2019, though I suspect it will be renewed if it is perceived as having been successful in increasing awareness and improving screening rates. The act will take effect immediately once it is signed by the governor.
We’ll let you know when that happens (I certainly don’t expect a veto), and keep you posted as the task force and DOH begin their work. In the meantime, you can reach our advocacy department with comments or questions at (717) 558-7823. Or, if you’d like to share your views more broadly, feel free to leave a comment below.