My personal story with “Prostate Cancer”
as told by Leonard Webb, Publisher of Ethnic Online
Before I was diagnosed with prostate cancer 14 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. I suggest you start the conversation with your family today! Start asking questions about your family’s medical history now with a view of enjoying the beauty of life as opposed to living with the fear of the unknown.
When I was first diagnosed in 2002 my prostate “PSA level was 4.9 and I had a Gleason of 9″, both numbers were alarmingly high and raised concerns with my primary physician. Keep in mind those numbers will vary depending on your age and your primary care physician will keep you abreast if you are in any danger. But the interesting thing is I had no symptoms of prostate cancer, no signs what so ever, I guess that’s why they call it the silent killer! My doctor 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 had 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. Years ago typically when a person heard of any type of cancer we automatically assumed the worse or a death sentence was inevitable, but early screening and modern medicine have come along way in extending a quality life. 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 at the Lahey Clinic in Burlington MA who walked me through the process and my options and outlined the pros and cons of each option. In his own way he was holding my hand and provided me with incredible peace of mind. I also decided to get a second opinion, which I highly recommend, this time from a black urologist and the diagnosis was the same along with the options on treating the cancer. I personally decided to have my prostate removed, there are other options that exist and I strongly suggest you have that conversation with your urologist and other prostate cancer survivors, but this 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 definitely 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. Often times in talking with men about being screened they would express their concerns or issues with the digital rectal exam because they feel it’s being evasive, but I say a moment of discomfort today can add years to your life tomorrow! 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 I recall sharing my story with two very close personal friends of mine about 10 years ago, 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! What a nice feeling knowing that I actually made a direct difference in someone’s life and because of 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?