Opening Hearing Statement

Sen. Ron Wyden

"Prostate Cancer"

Before the Senate Aging Committee

September 23, 1997

Mr. Chairman, I'd like to thank you and our Ranking Minority Member, Mr. Breaux, for holding this hearing on a very important issue.

Prostate cancer is the most common malignant cancer among men in America and accounts for 43% of all male cancers. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 1997-- 209,000 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed and 41,800 will result in death.

African-American men are disproportionately affected and have the highest prostate cancer mortality rate in the world. At 44 deaths per 100,000 people, prostate cancer mortality for African-Americans is the highest reported globally and is twice that of White Americans.

The alarming number of men suffering or dying from prostate cancer clearly illustrates our need to increase efforts to promote the importance of early screening.

In recent years there has been an enormous push to encourage women to receive mammogram screening. We need to be equally aggressive in raising awareness about prostate cancer, disseminating information, encouraging men to receive screening tests, and funding clinical research.

I understand that determining who, when, how and whether to screen for and treat prostate cancer are controversial issues but early detection increases the odds of an individual having a favorable outcome. Furthermore, researchers and clinicians agree that screening, early detection, and treatment are the central tenets of cancer control.

Congress has demonstrated their bipartisan support by passing the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 that included a provision to add prostate screening as a Medicare benefit for men over age 50. This benefit will become available in January of 2000. In 2003 any new technology the Secretary finds appropriate for the purpose of early detection will also be available.

We have some women with us today who were instrumental in saving their husband's lives by encouraging them to get screened for prostate cancer....I want to applaud their efforts. I also want to encourage other spouses, family members, and friends to take an active role in ensuring that their loved ones receive appropriate screening.

I would like to end by urging men, age 40 and over, to make early detection a priority. Go to your doctor for regular complete physical exams, even if you're feeling well. Often times the symptoms associated with prostate cancer do not appear until the late stages of the disease. So don't wait until you experience problems...get screened early so that if cancer is present it can be caught in its earliest and most treatable stage.

That said, Mr. Chairman, I look forward to learning more from today's panelists.