by Reggie Fullwood
We all know someone who has survived prostate cancer, and we all know folks who did not. Unfortunately for African Americans, we probably know more people who didn’t survive because they found out too late.
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 about 10 years ago.
A study completed a few years ago by doctors at the University of Michigan basically provided 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 among 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.
I have heard numerous brothers say that they don’t feel comfortable getting their prostate checked, and I certainly cannot imagine having to bend over for a doctor to check my prostate, but it is necessary discomfort for your survival.
Brothers are dying unnecessarily from completely preventable and treatable causes. Someone once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, adjusting for age, men lead in all of the 10 most common causes of death in the United States, and women live on average six years longer than men. A figure that gets much gloomier for the black male demographic alone.
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 basis
Signing off from the Lem Turner Medical Center,