What Does Race Have To Do with Prostate Cancer?

Did you know that men of color develop and die from prostate cancer more than any other ethnic group? Research hasn’t figured the reason for this yet, but I have dug up several factors that could contribute to it.

First off, we need to know that prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer in African-American men. This is the most common cancer next to skin cancer among men in the US1. This cancer has no boundaries.

Why aren't some men getting tested?

I was talking to my father who got prostate cancer at the age of 72. He is now 84 years old. He was also one of many that never went and got tested. I talked with my husband who is 60 and my two grown children who are 40 and 41. These are very sensible adults who refused to get tested, despite all that they know and all I have told them about this disease.

I wanted to do some research and see why this was happening to so many men of color. Are they scared, nervous or just ashamed to be tested?

Environmental factors and health insurance

Upon doing some research the one thing I notice was that environment played a role in this. It looks like diet habits were not that great along with living in areas where there are more toxins, waste, and pollution.

Next, we look at medical care; cancer is less likely to be detected in the early stages among African-American men because they are less likely to have health insurance and have less access to health care. I’m sure that if you don’t have sufficient financial support it can affect your ability to get to a good doctor or buy medications. These things can prolong you on getting the proper treatment early. But what about all the people who have good health care. What is their excuse?

My husband and sons have great jobs with the best health insurance. I asked them why they were scared to just get tested. They all had to write their answers down on a piece of paper for me; they didn’t want to say it out loud. They all wrote that they didn’t want anyone doing rectal exams on them and any unnecessary treatments and they didn’t want to lose any sexual functions after treatment. I’m beginning to think that this is the main reason most men won’t get checked early.

Doctor mistrust

There also seems to be mistrust with their doctor. The mistrust in our community is very high, but it’s time to get over it. We need to have our young and old men get screened early before any cancer starts to grow or to catch it early. It is up to us to educate and tell the men in our lives that there is no shame in talking about prostate cancer. There are men that would rather not know -- they fear the treatments. I think this is true of all men.

We are all knowledgeable and most black men know they have a greater risk of getting prostate cancer. Start your screening at age 45 and twice a year if your PSA levels are high. We should all make it our calling to advise men of color that they are at a higher risk of prostate cancer and must get tested early. If caught early, it can be treatable.

Knowledge is power

The bottom line for me is; let’s start changing some things in our lives. Eat right and exercise is a good place to start, stop smoking and drink in moderation. We need more education for all men in general. We need to find out what causes prostate cancer and to find ways to prevent it. We have always heard that knowledge is power and, in this case, it sure is.

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