Diligence in Detection

Diligence in Detection

The Prostate Health Education Network Inc. (PHEN), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to increase prostate health education and awareness among black men, will host its fourth annual African American Prostate Cancer Disparity Summit on Sept. 25-26 in Washington, D.C.

The two day summit, free to the public, will focus on the cancer crisis in black America, the importance of raising awareness and education, as well as the value of early detection.

“We could cut the death rate in half, through education and outreach,” said Thomas Farrington, PHEN president. “Early detection is what makes the difference in terms of saving lives and saving the quality of lives.”

In most cases, with poor education and less routine healthcare visits, black men don’t know that they have the world’s highest prostate cancer risk. African American men die at a rate of 2.4 times that of all other men from the disease. This is the largest racial disparity for any type of cancer.

A clear indication of this cancer is when too much protein is secreted by the prostate, causing it to enlarge and harden. There are two tests used for screening. The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test measures the amount of protein in the blood. The digital rectal exam (DRE) is a procedure in which the doctor inserts a lubricated gloved finger into the rectum to examine the prostate.

The American Cancer Society recommends that doctors offer their patients both exams since the early stages of prostate cancer usually don’t produce any symptoms.

PSA levels between 4 and 10, on a scale of 20, are classified as slightly elevated. White men who have PSA levels above 10 are at an elevated risk. For black men, the numbers are much different. A 4 is considered elevated for those over 50, while a 2.5 for men under 50 calls for immediate attention, says Mark Kennedy, a health educator at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

The Washington, D.C. summit begins on Thursday Sept. 25 at the Rayburn House Office Building and continues through Friday, Sept. 26 at the Washington Convention Center in conjunction with the U.S. Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference (ALC).

Thursday’s speakers will include Tavis Smiley, Sen. John Kerry, Congressman Gregory Meeks, Dr. Edward Benz, president of the American Association of Cancer Institutes, and Ken Griffey Sr., former baseball star and prostate cancer survivor. Friday’s program will be a town hall-style meeting to outline an “action blueprint” that will be presented to the incoming White House administration in 2009.

For more information on how prostate cancer is affecting African American men, read “Beating Cancer” in the October issue of Black Enterprise.