Prostate Cancer: Tough Love For a Tough Disease

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Almost half a million men in the United States have Prostate Cancer and this year, 30,000 of them will die from it. These deaths are especially tragic because Prostate Cancer is one of the easiest cancers to detect. Early testing is the key to curing or controlling Prostate Cancer, but large numbers of African–American men have been reluctant to step forward for testing because of fear, embarrassment or uncertainty about the unknown. Whatever the reasons, the African–American community must become an activist community to protect and lengthen the lives of its men against this killer disease because African American men are disproportionately affected. That is, more African American men die from Prostate Cancer than other ethnic or racial groups in the United States.

So, if you are a woman who is a wife or a sister or a daughter or a friend of a Black man, exercise your activism by helping to educate him about Prostate Cancer. And if you are a man who is a husband, a son, a father or a friend of other Black men or women, you owe a responsibility to yourself and those who love and depend on you to fight the fear, the embarrassment and the uncertainty. Your reward will be a long and healthy life in the company of those who are most important to you.

I encourage Black men and women to address the issue of testing by making a short mental comparison: Twenty minutes of mild discomfort in your local doctor’s office versus a shortened life or no life at all. I think reasonable people will agree it’s no contest.

The standard tests for Prostate Cancer are simple, widely available and affordable. Initial screenings typically consist of a blood test to screen for prostate specific antigen (PSA) – an enzyme made by the prostate gland –– and a digital rectal exam in which a gloved finger is inserted into the rectum to probe for growths or lesions. It’s the latter test that most men fear. Concerns that the test threatens a man’s masculinity are misplaced and dangerous to one’s health. Please be assured, your doctor treats hundreds of body parts on a typical day. Yours are just some among many. The real embarrassment will occur when a positive diagnosis of advanced Prostate Cancer is made and the realization sets in that the tragic diagnosis could have been avoided.

Don’t allow yourself or those you love to fall prey to the death trap that awaits those who avoid early Prostate Cancer testing. African–American men 45 or older should test annually. If a family history of Prostate Cancer exists, annual testing should begin at age 40.

Every day should be a day of awareness and concern for ourselves and our loved ones. Learn about Prostate Cancer and take steps to avoid its consequences in your life.

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