Filed Under:  Health & Wellness

A simple, yearly test can save Black men from dying

21st October 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Christopher Tidmore
Contributing Writer

“African-American males have the highest risk of prostate cancer in the world and should educate themselves about risk factors to head off aggressive cancers,” Dr. Jonathan Henderson of Regional Urology, LLC in Shreve­port told The Louisiana Weekly, and because of our joie de vivre in the Crescent City, Black men in New Orleans are of particular risk.

But, there is good news. “In the PSA era,” he continued, “the 10 year survival rate for prostate cancer has increased from 53 to over 97 percent, while the overall mortality from this disease has declined by nearly 40 percent. Men, particularly African-American men and those with a family history, need to take ownership of their health and have a conversation with their physician about their risk factors and when a PSA test is appropriate. It is senseless for men to die from this disease that is almost always curable with early detection.”

In general, Dr. Henderson told this newspaper, “New Orleanians are not at higher risk, as a group. Individuals of particular subsets of New Orleanians are at a higher than average risk. The most notable two groups to whom this applies are men of African-American descent and men with a family history of prostate cancer.”

The racial aspect of the disease is not unusual, the Shreveport Physician and LUGPA board member outlined, “African-American males have the highest risk of prostate cancer in the world. Unfortunately, the cause(s) for this are still un­known. These men are diagnosed more frequently, with more aggressive cancers, and at a later stage(the cancer has progressed more) than other groups. For this reason, it is imperative that men of African-American descent find a urologist early in their life and through an educated process seek early detection of this potentially fatal disease.”

When asked, Given our unique local cultural trends, what can realistically be done to ameliorate risk, Dr. Henderson replied, “This is an excellent question, to which there are several answers. First, we know that ALL cancers as well as heart disease are increased with high fat, low fiber diets. Here is the cornerstone of risk reduction. Let’s face it. We cannot change our genes, but we can absolutely change our behavior.”

“Second, our southern culture, especially among African Ameri­cans, has a longstanding mistrust of the medical establishment. This is not without good reason, as any student of history knows. Now is the time to move past that. It is far too often that I see a man present for his very first visit with widespread prostate cancer. There is no way we can cure this disease other than early detection, which falls upon the patient to ensure they visit the doctor. Third, due to the advanced and aggressive nature of prostate cancer in these men, it is important to be even more aggressive in screening than normal. Research has shown that lower PSA cutoffs should be established for this group. In other words, the urologist conducting the screening must understand the nuances of interpreting the data in this high risk group.”

The biggest problem, Dr. Hen­derson emphasized, is taking simple precautions can be the difference between life and death. As he noted, “In the public sphere, the knowledge is obviously lacking regarding the need for screening. The word must be disseminated better. September is Prostate Can­cer Awareness Month, and in most localities there will be free screenings as well as public service announcements.”

Yet, he warned, “Scientifically, what we don’t know is a very large amount. Because of the nature of our sexes, the amount of research money directed toward breast cancer has dwarfed that of prostate cancer by large multiplier. It is long past time we even that gap. Prostate cancer kills about 33,000 Americans every year. So, yes, knowledge of the cause and treatment of this disease is very young in its development. Fortunately, in the past five years, there has been an explosion of new treatments for advanced prostate cancer as well as breakthrough genetic discoveries.”

“In summary, men need to see a urologist at least yearly from no later than their 40th birthday. Women can help, and often do, to motivate men to do so. Eat right and exercise. If a man experiences some unusual urinary or sexual symptom, he should immediately see his urologist.”

“We all need to do better to get the word out, be it through civic groups, churches, word of mouth, etc. In this disease which is virtually always curable when caught early, it makes no sense for us to see a man in 2013 for his first visit with widespread prostate cancer.”

“Would a man ask the Saints to forgo all of their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd downs, and every time they get the ball, start on 4th down? No! You can’t win a ball game like that. But that is exactly what men do when they present in an already advanced state. Early detection is the key.”

This article originally published in the October 21, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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