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Survey Reveals Low Awareness of Prostate Cancer among African-American Men

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One of the leading causes of death among African-American men is relatively unknown to them, according to results of a recent survey.

Roughly 5300 African-American men died from prostate cancer, and more than 27,000 were diagnosed with the disease, in 2003. Yet more than half of African-American men surveyed did not consider themselves at risk for prostate cancer.

"In general, prostate cancer is very curable, if it's caught early enough. Going to your doctor for annual check-ups could save your life," said Gerald Hoke, MD, a urologist and member of the National Medical Association, an organization of African-American physicians. "Unfortunately, in the African-American community there's not enough of the awareness that tends to lead to early diagnosis. Knowing the risk factors and symptoms and getting screened is an important start."

Prostate cancer is of particular concern for African-American men, who are diagnosed with the disease at least 60% more than white men and are more than twice as likely to die of it.

The nationwide survey, which was sponsored by the National Medical Association, and supported by an educational grant from Sanofi-Synthelabo. Inc., questioned 300 African-American men age 30 and older about prostate cancer risk factors and screening, as well as the effects of and treatments for the disease.

Results indicate that only about 46% of the respondents who should be getting screened annually for prostate cancer - those age 45 and over - actually are doing so. As many as one-third had never been screened at all. In addition, only 40% of respondents recognize race as a risk factor for the disease.

"I would say that having been screened, and screened properly, saved my life," said entertainer and human rights advocate Harry Belafonte, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1996 and has been free of the disease for more than 7 years. "My task now is to get that word out to other men, and in particular, African-American men."

Key risk factors for prostate cancer include: age, family history, race. and diet. At-risk men - including African-American men - 45 and over, and all men 50 and over, should talk to their doctors about prostate cancer and being screened. Men with more than one risk factor should consider getting screened at 40.

Additionally, there are symptoms that might indicate the presence of prostate cancer, including inability to urinate, painful urination, and blood in the urine. Men experiencing any of these symptoms should see a physician immediately. There are many treatment options for prostate cancer and if the cancer is caught early, prognosis can be good.

"The results of this survey show that we need to continue to encourage African-American men - and their spouses and families - to take an active role in their prostate health by recognizing risk factors, getting screened, and understanding treatment options," said Randall Maxey, MD, president of the National Medical Association. "We have an enormous opportunity to raise awareness and screening and, possibly, improve treatment and outcomes of the disease in our community." This article was prepared by Cancer Weekly editors from staff and other reports. Copyright 2004, Cancer Weekly via &

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