Black Men And Prostate Cancer: Don’t Skip Regular Maintenance

A special appeal to black men during Men’s Health Awareness Month.

Did you know that, according the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer kills more black men than those of any other race? In fact, black men are twice as likely to die from prostate cancer.

Why are black men more likely to die from prostate cancer?

It could be genetic. Black men are also less likely to have surgical treatment than white men diagnosed at a similar stage of disease. Last but not least, black men have lower screening rates for prostate cancer — so their cancers are often discovered later.

What can black men do?

Take control of your health! It is like taking care of your car. You may take your car to a mechanic to fix what is wrong, but it is up to YOU to get the routine maintenance done on time and to make choices based on what the mechanic tells you.

Your health care is similar. Your doctor will treat you when you are ill and make recommendations for prevention and early diagnosis, but you have to make decisions on those recommendations and stay informed about your own health care. YOU ARE IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT.

Facts You Need to Know

There is a screening exam for prostate cancer called the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test. It can be done as part of your normal blood test during your annual physical exam. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the PSA exam is covered by insurance. Medicare also covers the test.

New federal government recommendations state that most men should start getting tested at age 55. Because the disease is more aggressive and strikes earlier in black men, studies recommend that African-American men should be screened BEFORE age 55. Discuss this with your doctor.

If you have an uncle, brother or father with Prostate Cancer, you are 2 to 3 times more likely to get prostate cancer and also may need earlier or more frequent screening.

Your results will be given as a score. According to renowned urologist and prostate cancer expert Claus G. Roehrborn, M.D., doctors may view the PSA results like a traffic light:

  • Green Light — A score of 2.5 or less — your doctor may say no more tests are needed — come back in 2 years.

  • Yellow Light — A score of 2.5-4.0 — your doctor will look to see if you have a family history of prostate cancer and other factors and ask you to get tested again in 1 year (or less).

  • Red Light — A score of 4.0 or above — Your doctor will most likely refer you to a specialist called an urologist.

Most men in their 40s should have PSAs of less than 1, but discuss the results with your doctor. They will follow the guidelines to determine if you need further testing (including a biopsy).

Keep Your Engine Running

If you need a biopsy, I recommend one that is guided by an imaging exam called an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). This image-guided biopsy is more accurate at finding a cancer (if there is one) as your doctor may actually be able to see any tumor present and take a piece of it — rather than going in blindly.

There are urologists and radiologists available who offer this more targeted biopsy. There’s no sugar-coating it. When prostate cancer is detected after it spreads, the 5-year survival rate is only 28 percent. Now the good news! When detected early and treated, the 5-year survival rate is 100 pecent.

It’s time to take charge and “MAN UP” to take care of this important health threat. Use Men’s Health Month (June) to create a maintenance plan for all of your very valuable health checks.

We can’t trade in our bodies for a new model. Proper diet, physical exercise and appropriate screening checks are the tools you have to keep your engine running.