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State Rep. Dan Cahill, Lynn Community Health Center push importance of early screenings for prostate cancer

Ryan Griffin talks with Dr. Geoffrey Pechinsky at the Lynn Community Health Center. (Owen O'Rourke)

LYNN — State Rep. Dan Cahill has an ally in the Lynn Community Health Center with his push to get men, especially ones at greater risk of contracting prostate cancer, to undergo early screenings for the disease.

Cahill is helping sponsor legislation in the Massachusetts House to spend $800,000 in next year’s state budget on prostate cancer awareness and education programs, including ones aimed at men deemed to be at high risk of prostate cancer, including African-Americans and men older than 50.

The lead sponsor on the legislation is state Rep. Gerard Cassidy of Brockton.

“We want to make sure people have access to care and are diagnosed early on,” Cahill said.

Dr. Geoff Pechinsky, Lynn Community Health Center chief medical officer, called prostate education “hugely important.” Slightly fewer than half the 40,100 patients who went to the center in 2017 were men.

“I’m 100 percent in agreement with outreach to at-risk populations. Men’s health a lot of times is not at the forefront,” Pechinsky said.

Dr. Faina Shtern, president of the Boston-based AdMeTech foundation affiliated with the Prostate Cancer Action Council, said there needs to be a push to educate African-American as well as Latino men about the importance of early screenings.

Money appropriated by the Legislature for cancer awareness could pay for outreach education in churches and education oriented to families.

“The message to men is take charge of their health and often that message has to be directed at women in their lives,” Shtern said.

Statistics collected and compiled by the Massachusetts Cancer Registry indicate incidents of prostate cancer observed in Lynn, Peabody and Swampscott were higher than the expected number of incidents between 2011 and 2015.

Shtern said the statistics underscore the importance of education and early screening for high risk men. Pechinsky said availability of care is a contributing factor to incidence of prostate cancer and how many men the disease kills.

Pechinsky said the accuracy and value of prostate screenings is debated by doctors but said men classified in high risk categories need to be educated about the importance of screenings.

“We have to dispel cultural obstacles,” he said.

Shtern said one of the council’s goals is to improve prostate screenings with precision diagnostic tools. She said advanced screening technology can improve diagnosis by five times.

AdMeTech and the council are sponsoring the 11th annual Prostate Cancer Awareness Day on April 30 at the State House.

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