"PROSTATE CANCER, MY STORY"
TO THE SENATE SPECIAL COMMITTEE
SEPTEMBER 23, 1997
Good morning Senators Grassley and Shelby and members of the Committee. My name is Len Dawson, I am here as a prostate cancer survivor and as a representative of the American Foundation for Urologic Disease, also known as the A.F.U.D..
A.F.U.D. is a charitable 501(c)3 organization whose mission is the prevention and cure of urologic diseases through the expansion of research, education, and public awareness. In its 10-year history, the foundation has funded over $18 million in research grants to innovative investigators as they launched their careers in urologic science; it has distributed over 6 1/2 million patient education brochures; and has been in the forefront of the battle to bring increased public awareness to urologic diseases, including prostate cancer.
As a result of my own experiences with prostate cancer, I have been a spokesman for the "Team Up Against Prostate Cancer" programs sponsored by the A.F.U.D. for the past four years. These programs have reached millions of American men and their families.
I would like to thank Congress for adding prostate cancer early detection as a Medicare benefit in the recently enacted Balanced Budget Act of 1997. However, This benefit will not be effective for two years. I hope this Committee could urge Congress to accelerate that implementation date.
It is vital that American men have the benefits of prostate cancer early detection as soon as possible. I could sit here and quote facts and figures, but my own story makes the point.
I consider myself a very lucky person...I am the 7th son of the 7th son...In the Spring of 1991, I had a complete physical, came home and told my wife Linda that I was in top shape. A few months later she asked if I had a prostate examination during that physical, because she had just seen Senator Bob Dole on television talking about the importance of the use of both the PSA blood test and the digital rectal examination or DRE for the detection of prostate cancer. My physical had included a DRE but not the PSA blood test.
The following day Linda read an article regarding free prostate cancer screening to occur later that month. Linda was adamant that I have the test and called and made an appointment for met to have both the DRE and PSA tests.
During my visit on the 19th, my doctor found my PSA to be regular. It was during my DRE exam that he thought he found something. Further testing showed that I had early stage prostate cancer. Fortunately, the cancer was caught in its earliest and most treatable stages. My prostate was removed five years ago and I'm doing fine.
It is an honor for me to be here this morning with Senator Dole. I believe that I owe my life to the fact that my wife heard his message and encouraged me to have a prostate examination.
It saddens me to report that my brother Ron died of prostate cancer two years ago. His cancer was diagnosed at a much later and more virulent stage than mine. This fact has made me even more of an advocate for the early detection of prostate cancer.
At this time, the greatest opportunity we have to present the best chance to cure prostate cancer is through early detection. According to the latest statistics published by the American Cancer Society, if prostate cancer is diagnosed and treated in its earliest stages, a man has a 99% probability of living another five years. If the cancer is diagnosed at distant sites such as the spine or brain, his probability of living five years is reduced to 30%.
It is clear that we can make a difference to men and their families, if only they can get the message. Now that Medicare is going to cover early detection, let's make sure that Medicare beneficiaries are aware that they have this new benefit. This could be in the form of educational materials from Medicare or even simple announcements in with their Medicare statements or Social Security checks.
For those men diagnosed with prostate cancer, it is critical that they have access to all appropriate cancer therapies. Many cancer treatments bring significant financial hardships to families who rely solely on Medicare benefits. Many of these folks have saved all their lives, and now must pay out of pocket for medically sound treatments that are not reimbursed by Medicare. Medicare should be amended to provide reimbursement for all FDA approved cancer therapies.
Today, Medicare is denying payment for approved therapies for the treatment of advanced stage prostate cancer on the basis on cost alone. If it takes an Act of Congress to ensure that medical providers and insurers, including Medicare, not be allowed to determine cancer treatments by the lowest alternative cost, it should be done! There is much more to determining therapies for cancer than cost...People's lives are at stake!
The health care needs of American citizens have changed dramatically since the inception of Medicare over 30 years ago. I urge that adequate provisions be made for the Medicare reimbursement of all approved cancer treatments.
It has been good to see the federal research funding for prostate cancer rising. There is still a long way to go for the disease to receive the research allocations appropriate to the leading cancer diagnosed and the second leading cause of cancer related deaths in American men.
In order to make the most effective use of each research dollar, Congress should direct the National Institutes of Health to develop a comprehensive prostate cancer research plan that encompasses all of its institutes.
Congress should also direct the Centers for Disease Control to establish prostate cancer registries throughout the country to collect information on all diagnosed cases of this disease. This vital information could be widely shared, disseminated and could become the basis for invaluable prostate cancer research data bases.
Let's Team UP and support these initiatives that rightfully address prostate cancer as a disease that has a profound impact on American families. Only then will we be able to eliminate it as a disease of serious concern. Thank you for this opportunity of speaking to you today.
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