Raising Awareness and Education Saves Lives in the Fight Against Cancer

Reggie Fullwood 2
Reggie Fullwood

by Reggie Fullwood

Theses days, the NFL makes national headlines for the wrong reasons – like when the great Donald Trump wants to distract Americans by tweeting about players taking a knee during the national anthem before games. Of course, the sport is a multi-billion dollar business and while it’s America’s most popular, it is also the country’s most controversial at times.

Critics can disparage the NFL for many things, but not their efforts to help prevent and cure cancer. Since 2009, the NFL and the American Cancer Society have been working together to save lives through their “Crucial Catch” initiative.

Through fundraising, education, and awareness initiatives, Crucial Catch focuses on the prevention and early detection of multiple cancers, including breast cancer.

To many NFL players, the issue is bigger than just wearing pink gloves or shoes to raise awareness.

We all know someone that has died from cancer or survived cancer, and NFL players are just like the rest of us. Here is the part about the effort that I appreciate the most – it also focuses on addressing the unequal burden of cancer in underserved communities. That is a critical issue that often times gets lost in the advocacy part of saving lives from cancer.

Raising awareness and addressing unequal treatment is exactly why the Jacksonville 100 Blackmen (J100) started the “Men Tackling the Big C,” (MBTC) initiative that focuses on prostate cancer awareness. The effort works to enlighten at-risk men on prostate cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

Early detection is critical to any cancer, however prostate cancer is considered “one of the more treatable cancers” if detected early enough.
Studies now show that black men are 60 percent more likely to get prostate cancer than whites. They’re also twice as likely to die from it than any other group. No one really started studying the statistics until the last 10 years.

A study completed a few years ago by doctors at the University of Michigan basically provides some answers to the reason why black men are dying from prostate cancer at alarming rates. This data showed that race and discriminatory treatment practices may be at the root of the issue.

This particular study basically suggested that the disparity may stem from differences in how the groups are treated for the disease.
After reviewing the records of more than 140,000 men diagnosed with prostate cancer, researchers found that black and Hispanic men were less likely to undergo surgery or radiation than were whites.

That study noted, “As prostate tumors became more aggressive–more likely to spread to other parts of the body–black and Latino men became less and less likely to receive surgery or radiation compared with whites.”

It may be hard for some to imagine that disparities exist in an industry as critical to human life as the healthcare arena, but the study acknowledges one of the silent institutional problems blacks have had to endure in this country – unequal treatment based upon race and ethnicity.

“Although some researchers believe that black men may have genetic differences that make their cancers more deadly, this report suggests that access to treatment may also be responsible for the survival gap between blacks and whites diagnosed with prostate cancer,” stated co-author Dr. John Wei.

But again this study was conducted a few years back, and if you know any thing about technology and medicine you know that factors and data can change rapidly.

Dr. Jim Mohler of Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo has studied the difference in prostate cancer amongst men and discovered a crucial difference in the prostates of African Americans.

According to Dr. Mohler, “All men have what are known as androgen receptor proteins – they are the receptors for the hormones that regulate male traits like facial hair and baldness.”

He adds, “The levels of those proteins are 22 percent higher in the prostates of African Americans than in whites. And even more striking, they are 81 percent higher in the prostate cancers of African Americans.”

While this new study isn’t necessarily the gospel yet, it does provide some interesting input into the difference between races.
And both studies also reinforce that fact that black men typically do not help the situation at all because of our attitudes towards seeking medical care.

So if you combine the two studies with the fact that black men don’t get enough routine check ups then you get a better understanding of why black men die at higher rates than any other demographic group.

A man’s pride is often the biggest hindrance because no self-respecting man wants to ask for help or be seen in the free health clinic. That is ludicrous. We all need assistance at some point in life and if you do not have health insurance there is nothing wrong with seeking help versus the alternative of dying.

Another key reason why black men’s health lags in comparison to others is simply access to services.

Poor black men are 6 times more likely to be uninsured as our white counterparts – 25 percent of Black males are uninsured.

So it’s clear that the silent crisis is here, but it is not too late to stop it. For as William Shakespeare once said, “This above all; to thine own self be true.” Early detection is the key – men get your prostate checked on a regular.
Signing off from a J100 meeting,
Reggie Fullwood

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