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OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center Benefits From $1 Million Gift to Support Prostate Cancer Awareness


Published: Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Anonymous supporters have provided $1 million to support OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center prostate cancer awareness efforts. The gift, made to the University of Oklahoma Foundation, will help fund the center's planned Prostate Cancer Awareness Initiative, a critical addition to previous prostate cancer awareness campaigns that will further bolster Stephenson Cancer Center's position as a nationwide leader in detecting and treating prostate cancer as well as increasing public awareness about the disease.

"The importance of this generous gift to raise awareness of prostate cancer, assist in community outreach to our most vulnerable men and provide funding for the ability to measure the impact of these screenings on men in Oklahoma cannot be understated," said Michael Cookson, M.D., professor and chairman of urology at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine and chief of urology at Stephenson Cancer Center. "This campaign will save lives."

The gift provides a kick-start for Stephenson Cancer Center's three-part campaign strategy that consists of a year-long marketing campaign around public education and awareness; community-driven events - including free screenings - directed toward Oklahomans who are uninsured, underinsured and socioeconomically disadvantaged; and clinical research measuring the impact of prostate cancer awareness and education on screening, detection and outcomes.

Cookson noted that prostate cancer is the "No. 1 solid tumor in men." While this type of cancer typically grows slowly, it can be deadly. The American Cancer Society estimates that 248,530 new cases will be diagnosed in 2021, resulting in over 34,000 deaths. Physicians at Stephenson Cancer Center say that men should begin annual prostate cancer screening at age 50 and should begin earlier if family history suggests greater risk.

"While we have made significant advances in the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer, early detection remains very important for successful treatment, "said Dr. Robert Mannel, M.D., director of Stephenson Cancer Center. "Prevention of cancer is a major component of our mission, and we are grateful for this remarkable donation because it will extend our reach to even more men across Oklahoma."

The Oklahoma State Department of Health reports that one in eight men in the state will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Many of these men have a limited understanding about prostate cancer screening and little access to testing. With this awareness campaign, Stephenson Cancer Center will build upon its previous public education efforts, continuing to generate awareness and information on prostate cancer in Oklahoma.

Stephenson Cancer Center's Prostate Cancer Awareness supports the OU Health clinical strategic plan, which aims to serve more Oklahomans in the prevention, detection and treatment of cancer. Stephenson Cancer Center treats one in six Oklahomans seeking cancer treatment and the plan is focused on ensuring few Oklahomans travel out of state to receive cancer treatment.

"Across our academic health care enterprise, we have been leaders in care delivery innovation," said Jason Sanders, M.D., MBA, senior vice president and provost of the OU Health Sciences Center and acting chair of the Board of OU Medicine. "Increasing preventive services is a key part of those efforts. Today and into the future, we are committed to making our health services accessible to every Oklahoman who needs our care."

The Prostate Cancer Awareness Initiative will leverage traditional and digital media outlets to educate Oklahomans about prostate cancer detection and engage the community in a dialogue about the disease. Stephenson Cancer Center has a goal of expanding community-based education among Oklahoma's African American population in particular, for whom prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer.

Stephenson Cancer Center plans to organize free blood test screenings to target uninsured and underserved populations, with the Department of Urology at the OU College of Medicine serving as a point of contact for education and follow-up for individuals whose tests indicate that further assessment is needed. The data collected during the campaign will inform the effectiveness of the awareness measures and provide a diagnostic pathway for men who are identified as having a potential marker for prostate cancer.

"The simple blood test performed prior to development of symptoms could be an indicator of prostate cancer," said Cookson. "If elevated, we have developed both additional testing known as a 'bio marker' coupled with MRI imaging to determine if a biopsy is recommended. And, this early detection can save lives."

As part of the state's only comprehensive academic health system, Stephenson Cancer Center is uniquely positioned to provide statewide leadership in cancer research, education, prevention and treatment. Stephenson Cancer Center is also the state's only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center, one of only 71 in the nation.