Searching out a killer
Hospital, medical association targeting
blacks with free prostate cancer screening
By Paul Huggins
Sam Miller has some sage advice for his fellow black men.
“Run to the doctor as soon as possible,” the 75-year-old Limestone County man said.
The reason: to get a prostate examination and detect possible cancer in its early stages, as he did.
There’s no excuse, he said, even if you don’t have a family doctor or a dollar in your wallet.
Decatur General Hospital and the Morgan County Medical Association will offer free prostate cancer screenings Saturday at the Turner Surles Center.
The screenings are open to anyone, but organizers are specifically targeting black men for the event.
“This disease hits African Americans more and at a younger age,” said Dr. Lane Price of Decatur General’s Oncology Center. “And they do tend to go to a doctor less, unless they’re really sick. Screening becomes almost a luxury to them.”
Twice the risk
A black man has a 19 percent chance of being diagnosed with prostate cancer and 5 percent chance of dying of it, more than twice the risk of white men. Prostate cancer is second only to lung cancer as the leading cause of cancer-related death in black men.
It ranks fourth when compared to all causes of death among black men 45 or older.
Miller, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer three years ago, said he was one of the rare ones who go for annual checkups.
His family doctor caught it early, and Dr. Price treated him with radiation. He didn’t require surgery.
“It was a blessing,” Miller said of early detection.
The entire process of treatment was hardly an ordeal, he said, and he was never scared because doctors assured him of the high survival rate when they detect prostate cancer in its early stages.
Dr. Price said organizers want the screening to be a quick and easy process, so they scheduled 10 Decatur physicians to conduct the screenings.
It will include a blood test and rectal exam. Including registering and filling out paperwork, an attendee can be in and out of the center in about 30 minutes, she said.
Attendees can show up any time between 8 and 11 a.m. or schedule an appointment by calling 341-2111.
In addition to the exams, about a dozen prostate cancer survivors will be present to answer questions about their treatments.
Dr. Bert Williams, chairman of urology at Frederick Memorial Hospital in Maryland, also will give several talks about the risks of prostate cancer in the black community.
Decatur General has organized public prostate screenings for about 15 years and generally draws 175 to 200 participants. Last year, 11 black men attended. Only one came the previous year.
Organizers, who include a committee of black male employees at Decatur General, decided this year to offer two screenings, one aimed at the black population.
To help advertise the event, they placed fliers in predominantly black communities and even inserted them in about 30 church bulletins.
Also targeting women
“Hopefully, we’ll reach the women, too, and they’ll make their husbands go,” Dr. Price said.
Last year’s screening found 22 men whose blood tests indicated they needed further evaluation. Dr. Price anticipates a higher number with a testing of predominantly blacks.
Alabama has the fourth highest prostate cancer death rate in America, and it was one of five states to earn a failing grade for efforts to reduce that death rate. The others are Mississippi, Arkansas, Idaho and Wisconsin.
Dr. Price said she doesn’t know of another prostate screening program in the state that targets blacks and hopes Decatur could be a pilot program for Alabama.
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