New model for prostate cancer health being launched in Brockton

The Brockton Area Branch NAACP is teaming up with the Boston-based AdMeTech Foundation to implement a new model of community education aimed at men facing decisions on screenings, diagnosis and treatment for prostate cancer.

By Marc Larocque
Posted May 4, 2016 at 4:16 PM

BROCKTON – A new targeted effort to spread awareness about prostate cancer is underway in Brockton, with the local chapter of the NAACP rallying to tell the community how important it is to confront the disease, citing statistics showing that it has a disproportionate effect on black men.

The Brockton Area Branch NAACP is teaming up with the Boston-based AdMeTech Foundation to implement a new model of community education aimed at men facing decisions on screenings, diagnosis and treatment for the prevalent, deadly disease.

“We, the City of Champions, are going to be leaders in prostate cancer awareness and screening, setting the example not only for the state, but for the nation,” said Steve Bernard, president of the Brockton Area Branch NAACP. “We can do it because we’ve done it so many other times, in so many aspects of our lives. Prostate cancer discriminates and we know that, in Brockton, we don’t stand for discrimination.”

Bernard said that Good Samaritan Medical Center has already agreed to partner on the community education effort, which will include outreach about screenings and events to make the local population aware of the dangers of prostate cancer. Bernard said that the Brockton initiative is seeking other community health organizations to take part.

Bernard also received the backing of the Brockton City Council at a recent meeting, and he said he is working with the administration of Brockton Mayor Bill Carpenter on the effort.

Bernard cited information collected by AdMeTech, first gathered by the National Cancer Institute, showing that black men in Brockton are 2.7 times more likely to die from prostate cancer than white men in the city. Incidents of prostate cancer mortality are also 3.2 times higher than cases of breast cancer deaths in the city, Bernard said. Nationally, an average of 1 out of 7 men get prostate cancer, Bernard said.

“That’s unacceptable,” Bernard said. “Ending the prostate cancer in Brockton, we and AdMeTech, and the partners that have joined us, are going to initiate a statewide program based in research. … (It will be) led by the AdMeTech Foundation statewide program in research, education and awareness, creating a Massachusetts model of national leadership, which I am told will begin right here in Brockton.”

The Brockton Area Branch NAACP and the AdMeTech Foundation are planning a community event, tentatively scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on June 17 at the Brockton VFW Post 1046.

Bernard said the partnership between the Brockton Area Branch NAACP and the AdMeTech started at the 2015 NAACP New England meeting, where AdMeTech was one of the featured guests. An initial outreach effort as part of the partnership took place at the annual MLK Day Breakfast held by the Brockton NAACP earlier this year.

The Brockton initiative formed after Bernard met with Faina Shtern, the doctor who heads AdMeTech, speaking about the high incidence of prostate cancer in Plymouth County, and the significant disparity between people of color and the white population.

Shtern said that AdMeTech, which started “The Manogram Project,” is working to underwrite development of imaging tools and is promoting access to early detection for those who are at high risk of dying from prostate cancer.

The Manogram Project comes in the wake of controversial national guidelines issued during the last 10 years that advised against screening in many cases – in order to avoid damage like incontinence and bowel problems caused by unnecessary treatment for untreatable or nonlethal cancers – without adequately addressing areas of high risk.

“This guidance essentially left all men … particularly those at high risk of dying of prostate cancer … (with) no alternative access to early detection,” said Shtern, during a recent interview with The Enterprise. “Delayed diagnosis and treatment resulted. We are working to create a new model for novel approaches to screening, diagnosis and treatment, as well as community outreach, using research and data to bring the best knowledge based on the best evidence for those at high risk.

“We are developing consensus with world-leading experts and state-leading experts on care and research,” she added. “We are underwriting tremendous amount of research and data to develop messaging that can be easily understood by everyone, integrating the best knowledge and evidence, and to bring this knowledge to both medical professionals, as well as men and their families.”

Shtern said that Brockton is an ideal launching ground for the “new model” for prostate cancer detection now being developed by AdMeTech. That’s because of the high rate of prostate cancer in the Plymouth County, she said. Prostate cancer among black men in the county is 39 to 40 percent higher than that of black men living elsewhere in the state, Shtern said.

“It’s completely unacceptable,” Shtern said.

Bernard, of the Brockton NAACP, also urged state lawmakers to support the cause, including state Rep. Gerry Cassidy, D-Brockton, who helped increase the state funding line item for AdMeTech from $250,000 to $500,000 in the proposed budget for next fiscal year. The chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, Brian Dempsey, bumped it up in the House version of the budget, which will be sent to Governor Charlie Baker and is expected to be finalized in July, Cassidy said. The line item was at $500,000 in the present fiscal year budget, meaning that it would be level funded if passed, said Cassidy, who requested a $1 million allotment.

“It’s an epidemic for the African-American and Hispanic communities,” Cassidy said. “This is a debilitating disease, and it is alarming there is such a large disparity. Hopefully, we can work together to increase early detection and spearhead research, leading to a decrease in the mortality rate.”