Prostate Cancer Awareness Month: Take Time To Educate Yourself

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When it comes to prostate cancer, no one is harder hit by this disease than African-American men. African-American men have higher incidence rates and at least double the prostate cancer mortality rates compared to men of other racial and ethnic groups, according to the National Cancer Institute. Prostate cancer is clearly the number one cancer threat for African American men.

This year, an estimated 186,320 men across the U.S. will learn that they have prostate cancer. That’s enough guys to fill up Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands two and a half times. Imagine the Jets and the Giants playing separate weekend pro football games and packing the house for both those games. And from this group, sadly, some 28,000 men (beyond the capacity of some of the nation’s largest pro basketball arenas) will lose their fight with the disease in 2008. Many of these men are African Americans who have a 1 in 5 chance of being diagnosed with prostate cancer and a 1 in 20 chance of succumbing to it. Prostate cancer alone is the fourth-leading cause of death among African American men over the age of 45.

As daunting as these numbers are, they should not provoke fear and anguish. Thanks to scientific advances over more than 70 years, we now have ways to attack and win the fight against this disease and other cancers. In the long run, it pays to work with your doctor to regularly check your prostate health.

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month and our message is simple -- the best thing every man can do for himself is to get educated about the disease. The more you know, the more you can reduce your risk of prostate cancer and the smarter decisions you can make if you are ever diagnosed. Knowledge really is power. But for too many African American men, accurate information about prostate cancer is hard to come by.

Where to get information? Your tax dollars have already paid for a wealth of services and materials provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the federal government’s lead cancer research entity.

You can also access a variety of helpful publications from these sites, such as the popular “Understanding Prostate Changes” booklet.

If you prefer to get your information via the telephone, dial NCI’s toll-free Cancer Information Service between the hours of 9:00 am and 4:30 pm at 1-800-4-CANCER where a specialist will be waiting on the other end of the line to talk with you. CIS information specialists have access to comprehensive, accurate information on a range of cancer topics, including the most recent advances in cancer treatment. They are skilled in explaining medical information in understandable terms and the service is confidential.

We also recommend that you take some time to learn about clinical trials and whether they are right for you. You can do that by visiting the NCI’s clinical trials portal page, at http://www.cancer.gov/clinicaltrials. Clinical trials are critical to our ability to eliminate prostate cancer disparities. Yet the percentage of Black men who have cancer and are 30 to 59 years old who participate in clinical trials is markedly lower than the percentage of White men with cancer in this age group. An important way to learn about cancer’s causes and how the disease works in different segments of the population is to improve the representation of minorities in cancer clinical trials. More African Americans participating in clinical trials can help us solve some of prostate cancer’s mysteries when it comes to African American men.

Don’t let this month pass you by without arming yourself with knowledge about prostate cancer. We have heard it said that what you don’t know cannot hurt you. That may be true in some areas of life, but not when it comes to prostate cancer. What you don’t know can kill you. Take the time now to educate yourself for life.

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