Lou Gossett Testifies On Cancer And Screening

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[Health: Op-Ed]

Academy-award winning actor Lou Gossett, Jr. and Betty Gallo were two of the witnesses invited to testify before the House committee on Oversight and Govt.  Reform on March 4, 2010 in Washington, DC. 

The committee heard testimony from researchers, prostate cancer survivors and family members of men diagnosed with the disease. 

It has been 11 years since the last hearing on prostate cancer was held.

Witnesses testified that prostate exams like the Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA), which are currently included in coverage offered by insurance companies in 37 states, are in jeopardy of not being covered if President Barack Obama's healthreform bill passes.

Gossett - who was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer - is just one of thousands of men that will be diagnosed this year. In Otis W. Brawley's testimony he stated that prostate cancer is the m ost commonly diagnosed cancer, and the second most deadly cancer. According to Brawley, Chief Medical Officer for the American Cancer Society, 192,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and 27,000 will die from the disease this year. 

"In fact, African-Americans have the highest incidence and mortality rates of prostate cancer in the world," stated James L. Mohler, Associate Director and Senior Vice President for Translational Research, in his testimony.

According to Mohler African-American men do not trust America's healthcare system. Therefore, African-American men and doctors need to build a bridge of communication. Tom Farrington, an African-American prostate cancer survivor and the founder of the Prostate Cancer Health Education Network, testified that his father and grandfather both had prostate cancer.

But his doctor failed to educate him about preventative exams, which is why he started the Prostate Cancer Health Education Network in order to educate men and their families.

Men's Health Network (MHN) believes patient education and navigation are important when fighting diseases such as prostate cancer, which is why MHN partnered with Master Mentor and created the Healthy Sunday initiative.

Healthy Sunday was established to provide access to educational materials and health screenings to underserved communities in a family setting like churches.

Furthermore, MHN and Master Mentor hope to increase the frequency and quality of doctor's office visits, and to endow men with the knowledge they need to live healthier lives - not only for themselves, but also for their families.

At the hearing, which was titled "Prostate Cancer: New Questions about Screening and Treatment", researchers reiterated that early detection of prostate cancer is the key to decreasing the male mortality rate from the disease. 

They also put emphasis on the need for sufficient funding and more accurate exams in order to set apart lethal and non-lethal cancers.

Betty Gallo, the co-founder of Women Against Prostate Cancer and the wife of the late Congressman Dean A. Gallo - who lost his battle with metastatic prostate cancer in 1994 - testified that if exams like the PSA had been available, Congressman Gallo might still be alive. 

Gallo represents the millions of women that are affected by prostate cancer.  In her testimony she included stories she heard from women her organization was established to support.

For instance, after Gail Puffer's husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer she began compiling information from lab work, notes taken during visits to her husband's physician and she educated herself on what treatments were available.

According to Gallo, since Puffer's husband was diagnosed, Puffer's concern also shifted to her son's. "More support and education is needed for partners, caregivers and the entire family when a man is diagnosed with prostate cancer," said Gallo in her testimony.  "Women play a very important role in the screening, diagnosis, treatment and recovery phases of prostate cancer."

Men's Health Network supports H.R. 2115, bipartisan legislation that would establish an Office of Men's Health, similar to the Office of Women's Health at the Department of Health and Human Services. 


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