I must preface this article by citing that I am neither a doctor nor health-care professional. None of the health information contained in this reading is to be solely relied upon without consultation with a licensed physician. The intent of this article is to further awareness about prostate cancer prevention, particularly among African-American men. Generally there are few, if no, outward symptoms of prostate cancer as long as the cancer is localized within the prostate gland. On the front-end of their lives, too many young African-American men are disproportionately imprisoned and disproportionately victims of homicide. On the back-end of their lives, too many African-American men are disproportionately losing their lives to the ravages of unchecked prostate cancer.
African-American Risk for Prostate Cancer
According to the Center for Cancer Treatment, prostate cancer has been reported to affect one in seven men within the United States and studies have shown that African-American men are roughly 60 percent more likely to develop the cancer in their lifetime than Caucasian and Hispanic males. Men having an immediate blood relative diagnosed with prostate cancer are twice as likely to develop the cancer with the chances becoming further increased if additional immediate family members have also been diagnosed with prostate cancer. For this reason it is absolutely CRITICAL that if you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, that you share your diagnosis as soon as possible with your siblings, children and grandchildren. If you have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, it is no time for African-American bravado, male machismo or becoming the strong, silent type. Doing so will deprive your immediate family members of family medical history necessary to assist them with monitoring and protecting themselves against cancer.
At every chance, I ask men if they know their prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test results. In more instances than not, stymied like a deer in headlights, the answer is “no,” or there is no understanding whatsoever of what is a PSA test. I am hoping this article will help make men more mindful of maintaining and monitoring their PSA “BASELINE” test results through regular physical examinations and testing for potentially early detection of prostate cancer. PSA tests measure the level of PSA in the blood that can potentially help detect prostate cancer and other prostate ailments.
A health-care professional shared that PSA tests are controversial in the medical community and many general practitioners do not order PSA tests as part of routine physical examinations. Guidelines have been established by the American Cancer Society for various cancer screenings by age to include PSA tests. PSA tests are not entirely reliable for detecting prostate cancer and abnormal PSA results can be the result of other medical conditions. Biopsies are more definitive for diagnosing prostate cancer. Men with low and high PSA test results have been confirmed with biopsies to have prostate cancer as well as to not have prostate cancer. From a personal standpoint, I personally advocate that every male should know his PSA baseline results in order to be aware of any changes in readings over the years. Medical decisions can later be made about what may possibly be causing any changes in test results. Changes in PSA test results can be an early warning indicator that may potentially signal additional testing for prostate cancer or treatment for medical aliments in the absence of cancer. Various organizations and institutions provide free PSA testing. More detailed information about PSA tests can be obtained from the Cancer Treatment Centers of America.
African-American Prostate Cancer Testimonials
To respect their privacy, pseudonyms have been provided for individuals who shared the following accounts of their prostate cancer experiences:
Patrice: “For the past 2 years on Father’s Day, I post Prostate awareness on all of my social media spaces. Just recently I encouraged a friend to gey (sic) his PSA test. In my twenties, I was allergic to my then boyfriend’s semen. His PH balance was too acidic. We learned from the doctor that he had an elevated PSA level. If it were not for my sensitivity and our wrecklessnes (sic) he would have learned too late about his cancerous prostate. He was as young as I. That’s the main reason why I promote establishing a PSA baseline.”
Samuel: “Religiously I would for years since my 20’s receive routine health physicals when scheduled. In 2015 I received a complete physical to include a colonoscopy and was given a clean bill of health. A PSA test coincidentally done in early 2016 revealed a PSA result of 52.88. A normal range recorded on my test result should be between about 2.75 and 4.5. A subsequent biopsy by a urologist disclosed an advanced stage of prostate cancer. What was discomforting to me was the fact that prior to 2016 my most previous PSA test result was 2.75 and was conducted in 2007. PSA testing in subsequent years after 2007, as part of my routine physicals, was discontinued unbeknown to me. I was ignorant, unknowledgeable and knew nothing about PSA tests until 2016. Upon inquiring of my regular health-care doctor, who had examined me for the past 16 years, as to why PSA tests were not conducted as a routine part of my blood work since 2007, I was informed that routine PSA tests after 2007 were discontinued as a part of conducting “standardized’ routine physicals.”
Alexander: Alexander is a physician and had a PSA score of 1.6 which would normally not be cause for concern of being afflicted with prostate cancer. He shared that because of his age and a history of prostate cancer in his immediate family, his physician convinced him to have a biopsy done in spite of his low PSA test result. His biopsy proved positive for prostate cancer, but because of the cancer’s early detection it is being monitored through active surveillance.
Lifestyle, Diet and Prostate Ailments
Regular exercise, consuming fresh fruits and vegetables, drinking plenty of water and maintaining a diet low in saturated fat have been shown to decrease the risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer. There are many products online promoting cures of prostate ailments, but proactive discussion about any prostate issues you may have is best to be discussed with a licensed urologist. Piedmont Health Care cites 8 symptoms no man should ignore which are erectile dysfunction, hypertension, leaking urine, blood in urine, lower abdominal pain, testicular mass, decreased sexual desire and infertility.
When was your last routine physical? Do you know your PSA test results? Do you have a PSA baseline? Do you have any immediate family members who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer? Not being able to adequately answer any of these questions, especially as an African-American male, makes you extremely more vulnerable to becoming the next prostate cancer victim. Be proactive. Learn more about prostate cancer prevention to protect your health and to save a brother, son or other family member; then spread the word on prostate cancer prevention and PSA baselines.