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State Guidelines for Prostate Cancer Screening May be Coming


By Scot Chadwick

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Citing a lack of consensus regarding prostate cancer screening guidelines and an environment of confusion leading to inconsistent screening rates across the Commonwealth, Sen. Bob Mensch (R- Berks, Bucks and Montgomery Counties) has introduced legislation to raise awareness and create uniform screening guidelines for Pennsylvania.

SB 609, introduced on May 12, 2015, is scheduled to be considered by the House Health Committee on Oct. 7, 2015. The bill cleared the Senate by a vote of 49-0 on June 25 of this year.

The measure would direct the Department of Health (DOH) to establish a task force on prostate cancer and related chronic prostate conditions. The task force would be made up of cabinet officials, clinicians, patients, and patient support group representatives.

Upon receipt of task force recommendations, the DOH would:

  1. Develop a program of information and education regarding prostate cancer, including 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 information to medical professionals and the general public.
  4. Cooperate with professional associations of health care professionals to provide the above referenced education program for professionals.
  5. Identify and apply for public and private grants and funding in order to carry out the provisions of the act.

Clearly the bill would do a lot of good. Increased education, public awareness and access to screening are worthy goals. It would be very interesting, though, to see what sort of uniform screening guidelines the DOH comes up with.

Much has been written lately about PSA-based screening programs, and how they detect many cases of asymptomatic prostate cancer that would likely remain asymptomatic for a man's lifetime. Given the well-known complications that can result from prostate cancer biopsies and treatment, I wonder how the DOH would come down on PSA screening.

As much as anything, what everyone agrees we need is a test that can reliably distinguish tumors that will remain indolent from those destined to be lethal. I wish we could do that legislatively.

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