When I turned 40, I went to the doctor for my annual exam. I dreaded it all day, but I knew it was necessary. I entered the examination room and sat in a chair in the corner. The nurse entered the room and checked my vital signs.
“Your blood pressure’s a little high,” she said. “Do you have any stress in your life?”
“Yes,” I said. “Work has me a bit stressed out at the moment.”
“You need to relax and take it easy,” she said as she exited the room. “The doctor will see you in a few minutes.”
Although work was contributing to my stress, my main source of anxiety at that moment was the thought of getting my prostate exam. I tried not to think about the places the doctor’s finger would probe because I knew how important the exam was to my health.
Men of African-American descent are at a significantly higher risk of developing prostate cancer than white men. Among black men, 19 percent — nearly one in five — will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and five percent of those will die from this disease. In fact, prostate cancer is the fourth most common reason overall for death in African-American men.
Although it is recommended that men start their prostate screenings when they turn 50, I started earlier because several men in my family have been affected by the disease. African-American men with an immediate family member who had prostate cancer have a one in three chance of developing the disease. Their risk rises to 83 percent with two immediate family members having the disease, and skyrockets to 97 percent if they have three immediate family members who developed prostate cancer.
When the doctor finally arrived, I was ready to get it over with. After exchanging small talk, the doctor prepared for the exam. I can still hear the sound of the rubber gloves as he placed them on his hands. I’ll spare you the details of the exam, but I will say that it wasn’t as bad as I had made it out to be.
“Good news,” the doctor said as he removed the gloves and washed his hands. “You’re clear.”
I was happy to hear those words and glad that I had taken to time to schedule an exam. Studies show that many men don’t get regular health checks for the following reasons:
- Fear it will lead to a hospital visit
- Embarrassed to discuss their health issues
- Find it too hard to see a doctor because they just can’t fit it into their schedule
- Just can’t be bothered making an appointment
I urge all men, especially African-American men, to take control of your health by scheduling regular doctor appointments, eating healthy, exercising, and managing the stress in your life. Your health is your most valuable treasure. Protect it.
P.S. – If you are a prostate cancer survivor, please share your story on the Clark Atlanta University Prostate Cancer Registry. The registry encourages prostate cancer survivors to share their stories in an effort to reduce health disparities and improve the treatment, care, and long term quality of life issues that affect African-American prostate cancer survivors.
Frederick J. Goodall, Mocha Man Style Publisher, and Editor-in-Chief