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by Sherry Denton   |   November 16, 2021

Clinical Pathways and Veterans

My name is Sherry Denton, and I am a nurse practitioner, the director of a prostate cancer clinic in Little Rock, Arkansas, a student pursuing a Masters in Health Administration, and a passionate prostate cancer advocate. I first advocated with ZERO at the 2021 Summit, and it was there that I realized how perfectly my professional background aligned with our policy priorities.  

I was a registered nurse for many years before I got my Master’s degree and became a nurse practitioner. Most of my career as an RN was in oncology, so I naturally gravitated to treating prostate cancer patients when working in urology. I am very passionate about treating cancer. I particularly love treating prostate cancer patients because with the proper education, screening, and treatment, men with prostate cancer can live long, productive, and high-quality lives. One of the most rewarding things I’ve done in this field is helping establish a clinical pathway for prostate cancer in Arkansas. 

Clinical pathways help guide providers such as myself in our treatment choices as the disease progresses. I think of it as a roadmap. For example, when a man is diagnosed with prostate cancer, there are different roads we can take for the treatment depending on several factors. We use pathways to discuss the options with the patient and choose which option is best for him. If his cancer progresses, we again use the pathways to decide the next steps. Clinical pathways help us make sure we educate our patients about every treatment available for their particular case.   

I am constantly updating our pathways as new treatments become available. Over the past ten years, the treatment of prostate cancer has dramatically progressed. Before that, we had only a couple of choices for treatment, but now there are many more. I am also updating our pathways to include how we can treat African American men specifically for prostate cancer, as it is more prevalent and more aggressive upon diagnosis. There is a large disenfranchised, rural African American population in Arkansas, which is why we are working on reaching the African American population as soon as possible and shaping our treatment options and education to target them specifically. 

Clinical pathways are also the target of one of ZERO’s current policy priorities. Historically, Veterans, who have nearly double the risk for prostate cancer, have had challenges accessing care within the VA, even though prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer for Veterans, with nearly half a million Veterans being treated within the VA health system. Therefore, a standardized clinical treatment pathway must be created within the VA to ensure that Veterans with prostate cancer are equitably and adequately diagnosed and treated. 

That is why I’m helping to support House bill H.R.4880 and its Senate companion S.2720, the Veterans’ Prostate Cancer Treatment and Research Act, establishing the clinical pathways needed for prostate cancer within the VA and ensuring that Veterans do not die needlessly from this disease. Veteran advocates from ZERO and partner organizations will meet on November 18th with their Members of Congress during the first Veterans Prostate Cancer Advocacy Day to help push this bill into law. I fully support this effort and encourage everyone to participate by sending their legislators a message to support this bill.