By Kaitlyn Budion

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, APRIL 30, 2019…..Prostate cancer is a major public health issue in Massachusetts, especially in light of drastic racial disparities in care, lawmakers and advocates said Tuesday.

“We must also take a hard look at racial and ethnic disparities in our health care delivery systems and find ways to ensure that everyone is getting a fair chance at a healthy future,” said Senate President Karen Spilka.

AdMeTech Foundation held its 11th annual Prostate Cancer Awareness Day, with speakers from the legislature and medical fields emphasizing the importance of early detection for prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer affects one in nine men, with even higher rates with men of color. Black men have a 60 percent higher rate of occurrence and are 2.5 times more likely to die from prostate cancer, according to AdMeTech.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo spoke about spreading information so men are more aware of the threat of prostate cancer.

“These statistics are staggering,” DeLeo said. “We need to encourage men to initiate these conversations with their doctors. We need to continue to pay attention to these disparities and find inventive ways to make sure our health care system works for all of our residents.”

Last week, the House approved $800,000 in funding for prostate cancer education in the fiscal year 2020 budget, with 85 percent of those funds provided to AdMeTech, a non-profit that works to spread awareness of prostate cancer and advocate for better diagnostic tools to improve early detection and accuracy.

“I challenge all of us in Massachusetts to do all that we can to fight those numbers, to bring down those numbers and those percentages,” Spilka said. “Massachusetts has a history of leading the way when it comes to health care and we must continue to provide that leadership to fight prostate cancer.”

Sen. Cynthia Creem of Newton emphasized the importance of hearing from survivors and educators, to bring information to groups most at risk.

“It is about having that conversation, it is about coming forward with education and understanding, that will make headway,” she said.

Rep. Carlos Gonzalez of Springfield, chair of the Black and Latino Caucus, compared the uncertainty and fear of being diagnosed with prostate cancer to his ride into Boston this morning, when he got stuck on the left side of the turnpike with a flat tire. In both cases, he said, the solution involved information.

“Information is power, and no matter how difficult the situation may be, when you have a community and when you have family members that are with you, to guide you and support you, you can overcome anything,” Gonzalez said.