The statistics are grim! Black men are being dealt fatal blows by their prostates. That walnut shaped gland located at the neck of the urinary bladder. It plays an important role in the male reproductive system; adds nutrients and fluid to sperm. It is very private; and one of the ways of checking for changes in shape, size and other abnormalities is through a Digital Rectal Examination (DRE). Not a surprise that men generally cringe at the idea of doing this exam. After all, it’s no fun having someone poke through the rectum to check some organ inside the body.
In Africa and other black communities, unfortunately, there are several social and economic reasons why men would not go for a timely checkup. For example in Nigeria, due to lack of free health care, an average working class man would rather spend money on his car or a pair of designer shoes than spend his income on a medical exam when he’s not critically ill. While poorpeople in the society, with little or no disposable income, are more likely to leave their health to faith or fate. Other men would rather not talk about it to avoid being perceived as weak or severely ill.
The data is not friendly for black men especially those from West Africa. “Black men are more than twice as likely as their white counterparts to die from prostate cancer.” The good news, however, is that if this exam is done early enough it could be a lifesaver.
Another way for checking prostate health is through a PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) blood test. A normal PSA does not preclude the existence of prostate cancer and abnormal results may be due to other prostate problems or even medications!
In my personal life, a very close person died from complications of prostate cancer. A university classmate in his fifties died from prostate cancer. Today, I have friends battling enlarged prostate and managing various levels of treatment for prostate cancer. It is very important that all black men in our lives are encouraged to check out their prostates – fathers, husbands, sons, brothers etc. that are 40 years and older should ensure that they speak with their healthcare provider about the options available for testing. Do not feel embarrassed to talk about it.
Risk factors for development of prostate cancer are : Age (over 50), family history, African or Caribbean descent, overweight, and low-fiber/ high-fat diet.
Signs and symptoms:
- Difficulty urinating
- Urgent need to urinate
- Frequent urination, especially at night
- Burning or pain when urinating
- Inability to urinate or difficulty starting or stopping urine flow
- Painful ejaculation
- Blood in the urine or semen
Many people ignore problems that may originate from medications they are taking. It is very important to speak with your pharmacist about medications and side effects. Some men taketestosterone supplements for various reasons. Testosterone was once thought to increase the risk of prostate cancer but there is an ongoing debate in the medical community regarding the relationship between low testosterone levels and risk of developing prostate cancer.
The relationship between being a black male and the risk of developing prostate cancer is one that cannot be ignored. Some men may ignore symptoms, but this could prove to be dangerous. The key lies in early diagnosis and then making an informed decision in collaboration with a specialist. If prostate cancer is diagnosed before it grows outside the gland itself, it is much more likely to be treated successfully.
1. Courtesy: T.J Raphael: The Takeaway; ( http://www.pri.org/stories/2015-02-10/men-prostate-cancer-being-black-deadly-complication ) (accessed April 1, 2015)
2. Courtesy: Prostate Cancer Canada: ( http://www.prostatecancer.ca/Prostate-Cancer/About-Prostate-Cancer/Signs-and-Symptoms-of-Prostate-Cancer#.VRwc7zl0xok ) (accessed April1, 2015)