Health

Health Screenings Vital to Black Men

African-Americans More Prone to Prostate Cancer

Approximately 2.5 million men in the nation currently have prostate cancer, and African-Americans are 60 percent more likely to develop the disease than whites. (Courtesy of nationalurbanmedia.com)
Approximately 2.5 million men in the nation currently have prostate cancer, and African-Americans are 60 percent more likely to develop the disease than whites. (Courtesy of nationalurbanmedia.com)

by Stacy M. Brown
Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper

It’s an occurrence that Maryland’s Dr. Sanford Siegel has seen all too often.

The longtime physician, president and CEO of Chesapeake Urology Associates, the largest urology practice in the Mid-Atlantic region, said that when he broaches prostate cancer screenings to many African-Americans, most will look away or even pretend that the conversation never occurred.

Getting black men to agree to a short prostate screening has never been easy.

“It’s not an easy topic in the black community,” Siegel said. But the doctor said he couldn’t sit back and wait for men to come to him, because when they arrive in his office, it often means the disease has started to get the best of them.

“I just thought that something had to be done. I remember going to the general manager at Radio One, and I told him that I wanted to [sponsor a 5km run] … to help raise awareness. And the gentleman told me, ‘My people don’t run,’” Siegel said.

Siegel said the general manager told him that he needed to do something more substantial, so the intrepid doctor decided that in order to reach the black community, he needed to visit the churches where they worship.

Six years ago, he began hosting prostate cancer screenings at various Maryland churches.

“We didn’t ask anything of the churches, but the preachers allowed me to speak from the pulpit to help energize everyone,” Siegel said. “The cry has always been that black men don’t have to die from this disease. Every man has to understand that if they’re not taking care of themselves, then they’re not taking care of their families,” he said.

As Prostate Cancer Awareness Month draws to a close, health officials in the metropolitan area have continued to work overtime to spread the message in the African-American community that prostate screenings count as an important first step in combating the deadly disease.

One in six men is affected by prostate cancer in the United States, which makes it the second most-common cancer among men in the country, behind skin cancer, said officials from the Prostate Cancer Foundation in Los Angeles. Further, an estimated 238,000 men are diagnosed each year, and approximately 30,000 of them die annually because of the disease.

Foundation officials also said that 2.5 million men in the nation currently have prostate cancer and that African-Americans are 60 percent more likely to develop it than whites.

“There is a lot of confusion and a lack of knowledge surrounding these issues among men,” said Thomas A. Farrington, president and founder of the Prostate Health Education Network in Massachusetts, a nonprofit that’s scheduled to hold its 10th annual African American Prostate Cancer Disparity Summit on Thursday and Friday in several District locations, including the Russell Senate Office Building and the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill.

“The summit will address these issues collectively, which is critical to African-American men who are at high risk for prostate cancer, those newly diagnosed with the disease, and for survivors seeking to maintain their quality of life,” Farrington said.

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