Annual checkups are essential. (Courtesy photo)
Annual checkups are essential. (Courtesy photo)

Stephen Jefferson arrived at West Potomac Park at 5:30 a.m., and even though it was still dark, he was working hard to register people for the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia’s annual 5K Prostate Walk this month.

“I am fighting this cause because I don’t want the brothers to go through what I had to go through,” said Jefferson, 52, who in June 2009 was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma and underwent surgery at Howard University after the cancer spread to his stomach.

He said in terms of prostate cancer, African-American men are the leading group getting the disease and dying from the diseases.

The American Cancer Society estimates that 300 people will be diagnosed with the disease this year and 70 will die.

“Prostate cancer is still killing far too many Black men because of the stigma,” Jefferson said during the April 13 event. “We don’t want to get the digital recital exam and get checked for a disease that is preventable.”

Howard University President Wayne A.I. Frederick, a leader in cancer research for nearly two decades, was the surgeon who operated on Jefferson, who said he is now cancer-free after years of diet, exercise and lifestyle change.

Jefferson has since gone from patient to educator when it comes to prostate cancer.

“For Blacks suffering with cancer, our mortality rate is higher and part of this is because we have to travel so far for treatment,” he said.

Clinton Burnside, coordinator of the prostate awareness program at the Howard University Cancer Center, was also at West Potomac Park on April 13, along with Quincy Gant, Grand Master of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of DC, and nearly 100 others. The masons have been pushing African-American men to get checked.

Dr. Jackson Davis, a retired Howard University Hospital urologist who also took part in the walk, said technology has greatly improved so there is no reason why men should not get treated.

One of the latest innovations is the cyber knife, which eschews cutting in favor of using a guided radiation beam on a specific area, Davis said. Scientists say this eliminates some of the side effects in radiating tissue.

Burnside said there is lot of genetic research looking into why so many African-American men get prostate, but there is no clear answer.

“We want men to come and get screened because of the risk factors: being an African American, being overweight, a lack of exercise and our diet,” Burnside said.

Hamil R. Harris

Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who worked at the Washington Post from 1992 to 2016. During his tenure he wrote hundreds of stories about the people, government and faith communities in the...

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