Senator Stephen M. Brewer, Chair Senate Committee on Ways and Means; and Representative Kulik, Vice Chair Joint Committee on Ways and Means

Senator Stephen M. Brewer and Representative Kulik

We would like to call attention to a disease that is more common and more lethal than even breast cancer in our state: Prostate cancer has become an epidemic, striking as many as one in seven men. This disease is personal — we are prostate cancer survivors. We know that when it strikes, it does not just strike men, but also impacts a man’s friends, family, and those who love him. This rampant disease leaves no family and no community untouched.

An American man dies every 18 minutes, and we lose Massachusetts men every day. Men with African American heritage are impacted disproportionately, with 60 percent higher incidence and 250 percent higher mortality.

Recent data released by the National Cancer Institute show that, as of 2010, prostate cancer mortality in the state was comparable to that of the nation. In Franklin County, however, the prostate cancer mortality rate is over 17 percent higher than the national average. Franklin County’s rate is the highest in our state, as of 2010.

And yet, prostate cancer is curable when detected early. With early detection, every man will be alive in five years after diagnosis. With late diagnosis, only 28 percent of men will survive in five years after diagnosis; thus as many as 72 percent of men will die of prostate cancer.

Massachusetts’s medical institutions lead the world in prostate cancer care and research. So why do so many men in parts of our district die of prostate cancer? We don’t have answers, and we are determined to change that. We are committed to fighting this disease and to reverse the impact of this epidemic on our men, our families and our communities.

This year, we have created a statewide program in prostate cancer awareness and education. The major goal of this effort is to bring the cutting edge advances in prostate cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment from the leading state institutions to every man and health care provider in our state.

But we need to do more.

As we consider Boston an international center for advanced medicine, we can no longer tolerate the preventable loss of lives caused by prostate cancer care in our state and our districts.

The 650 Massachusetts men who will die of prostate cancer in 2014 are very real to us — they are our sons, fathers, and friends. This cancer can be cured and lives can be saved if men have access to the recent advances in early detection and treatment. We are committed to prostate cancer awareness and education so that every man and the people who love him can — like us — win their battle with prostate cancer.

State Sen. Stephen Brewer serves 28 communities in a district that covers Worcester, Hampden, Hampshire and Middlesex counties. State Rep. Stephen Kulik serves 19 towns in Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden counties.