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Health Matters

Fear shot through my body like a jolt of electricity when heard the news that my granddad had Prostate Cancer. On an estimated one in four black men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime and, surprisingly, that rate is much higher than sisters’ one-in-ten risk of getting breast cancer. For Black men, the chance of developing prostate cancer are about 33 percent greater than for white men, and they’re twice as likely to die of it. Black males have the highest rate of prostate cancer in the world.


Prostate Cancer has reached almost epidemic proportions, and people don’t even know it, maybe if the death rate were two times higher in white men, you’d see a lot more action. But because the disease targets our community in high numbers, black men and women must take action to learn about the condition, detect it early and get the best treatment possible.A `Silent` Sickness

Cancer of the prostate begins as a silent, stealthy intruder that can fester and grow for years without yielding a telltale clue. Our prostate is a walnut size gland that lies just below the bladder and surrounds the urethra, tube that carriers urine. Cancer usually starts on the outer part of the prostate: a tumor has to grow fairly large before it begins to press on the urethra and cause urination problems. According to the American Cancer Society, signs may include weak or interrupted urine flow; inability to urinate or difficulty starting or stopping the urine; frequent urination, especially at night; blood in the urine; pain or burning while urinating; and persistent pain in the lower back, pelvis or upper thighs. Experts don’t know what causes prostate cancer but in some cases the condition may be hereditary.

Sex, Stigma and Saving Lives

Whatever the cause of the disease, early diagnosis of a prostrate malignancy saves lives. If the condition is caught before the cancer spreads, the five-year-survival rate is 90 percent. Yet, too often our lovers, husband, fathers and brothers wait too long before they agree to see a doctor and even then they put up a fight. That concern, coupled with distrust of white physicians and refusal to submit to the indignities of a prostate examination (a doctor must glide his or her finger into the man’s rectum to feel the prostrate), can set the stage for prostate cancer to flourish. But because Black men tend to develop the condition at younger age, they should undergo annual prostate exams beginning at age 40. The two standard tests for prostate cancer are the digital rectal exams, known as the DRE and the prostate specific antigen or PSA test.

Survival and Side Effects

Depend on the stage of disease, symptoms and a man’s age upon diagnosis. Immediate treatment may not be necessary. Prostate cancers tend to grow slowly and “watchful waiting�? is sometimes the best approach. However, when treatment is called for options typically include surgery, radiation and hormone therapy.

Preserving Prostate Health

In addition to our learning about early detection and treatment, we’ve to education ourselves about the value of preventive health maintenance and to lower our risk of prostate Cancer.

  • Exercise routinely – Physical activity reduces testosterone, which will lower your risk of prostrate cancer.
  • Cut of fat – A high fat diet is thought to increase the risk the disease.
  • Eat five servings of fruit and vegetables per day- These foods contain carotenes,which protect against cancer.
  • Consider supplements- Beta-carotene and selenium supplements have been shown to reduce prostate cancer.

To learn more, turn to these organizations: American Foundation for Urologic Disease, Inc (AFUD) and the American Cancer Society.

Source: Essence Magazine (Nov 1997)

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