September 2011 - Black Men and Prostate Cancer Awareness Month: Calling all Ladies

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Ladies, I need your help. September is Prostate Cancer Awareness month and I’d like for you to do me a favor:  Encourage every Black man—age 45 and over-- that you know to talk with his doctor about prostate cancer screening.  Yeah, I know—this is hard to talk about, it’s not very sexy, and you’re thinking that he probably won’t listen to you.  But this is where your power and influence kick in.  Let each of your men know that if he won’t do it for himself, he needs to do it for his wife, his children, his friends, his parents, and his community.  Because all of these people likely depend on him and all will be affected if he dies from this disease.

I know that many Black men don’t relish the idea of the digital rectal exam (DRE) used to check for prostate abnormalities.  (We ladies can relate, given our experience with the PAP smear).  In addition, he may have heard that screening for prostate cancer using the PSA blood test is controversial.  But that’s still no reason for your man NOT to have the conversation with his doctor.  The American Cancer Society1 recommends that Health care providers discuss the potential benefits and limitations of prostate cancer early detection testing with men and offer the PSA blood test and the digital rectal examination annually, beginning at age 50, to men who are at average risk of prostate cancer, and who have a life expectancy of at least 10 years.*  Men at high risk (African American men and men with a strong family history of one or more first-degree relatives diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age) should have this discussion with their provider at age 45.”

To help get Black men to understand the impact of prostate cancer in our community, Journey To Wellness has a wonderful program about Black Men and Prostate Cancer ( in our “Special Feature” section on  Encourage the Black men in your life to tune in, listen and tell their friends to do the same.  They’ll get a chance to hear testimonials of Black men who have walked this road—their personal fears, their hopes, their triumphs, and their efforts to save their “brothers.”  It’s Black men talking to Black men about taking control of their lives. We think it’s an example of Black men at their best!

The expression of love and caring can be shown in a million different ways.  Ladies, I beg you, encourage the men in your life to talk to their doctor about prostate cancer.  Let this be one of the million ways that you say “I care about you and your life matters.”

With you on your Journey to Wellness…
Dr. Mary S. Harris

* Information should be provided to men regarding the benefits and limitations of testing so that an informed decision concerning testing can be made with the clinician’s assistance.
1 American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures for African Americans 2009-2010. Atlanta: American Cancer Society, 2009., p. 28

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