My personal history with “Prostate Cancer”
as told by Leonard Webb, Publisher of Ethnic Online
Before I was diagnosed with prostate cancer 16 years ago, I had never heard of it yet alone knew how disproportionately it affects African American men. In fact as I recall my primary care physician of 24 years had never really discussed my family history or talked to me about prostate cancer, it was only after I was diagnosed that we then discussed my family history. Because I was diagnosed at an early age, I think that all African American men should be made aware of their increased risk for prostate cancer and that they should be screened on a regular basis, starting no later than age 40 which runs counter to what prominent medical organizations recommend.
Did you know that men who have a first-degree relative (father or brother) with the disease are two-and-a-half times more likely to develop it themselves compared with someone with no family history of the disease? The risk is five times greater for men with two or more affected first-degree relatives. But one study showed that only 31% of men ages 40 or older have been asked about their family’s medical history by their doctor.
When I was first diagnosed in 2002 my prostate PSA level was 4.9 and I had a Gleason of 9, both numbers were alarming and raised concerns with my primary physician. He then suggested I get a biopsy to determine if it was cancerous and if so, what are the next steps? The first time I had a biopsy it came back inclusive, which meant I had to have a second one to see if it had spread throughout my body. The results came back positive and it was determined that I indeed have prostate cancer.
You know I found it interesting that my reaction was very different than most men I’ve spoken to about being diagnosed with prostate cancer. Those of you who know me well, know that I typically have a very positive outlook on life in general, but what really cemented my comfort level during this process was the calm and informative demeanor and conversation I had with my urologist Dr. Karin Hamaway who walked me through my options and outlined the pros and cons of each option. In his own way he was holding my hand and provided incredible peace of mind. I also decided to get a second opinion, this time from a black urologist and the diagnosis were the same along with the options on treating the cancer. I personally decided to have my prostate removed which was the best option for me and my family. I am happy to say to this date, thank god I have been cancer free since 2002 and I am doing fine! Still playing basketball with kids half my age and keeping active at the gym while giving my 14 year old daughter a run for her money on the trampoline! All because of early screening!!
I learned that a specific individual’s risk of prostate cancer may vary, for example, as a man ages, his chances of developing the disease increase. Two other factors affecting risk are race and family history. African American men are about 1.6 times more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than white American men, and 2.6 times more likely than Asian Americans. They are also more than twice as likely as white men to die from it.
My personal opinion is we definelty are better informed today than 14 years ago when I was first diagnosed. I can recall having several conversations with my brothers, nephews and other African American men about prostate cancer after I was diagnosed and I was stunned about the lack of knowledge about this silent killer. Hindsight being what it is a lot of men have issues with the digital rectal exam because they feel it’s being evasive and then when you talk about prostate cancer the unknown and fear factor kicks in. People may wonder about the value of screening for prostate cancer, but if you look at the death rate over the last decade, it has come down. In fact there are two personal friends of mine who I shared my story with about 10 years ago and they subsequently got checked and both were diagnosed with prostate cancer, but because of early screening they were able to receive the appropriate treatment and to this day are both doing great! That’s a nice feeling knowing that I actually made a direct difference in someone’s life and because my story and their positive outcomes, I will continue to be a prostate cancer ambassador!
Men PLEASE get screened! Loved ones of MEN, encourage them to get screened! Remember early detection saves lives, I am here today to tell you that screening works!
October is prostate cancer awareness month, have you been screened?