October 27, 2011
The deadliest killer in the black community is not gangs, or drugs, or black on black crime, as deadly as they are. It’s the “self on self” crime of ignoring our health. The biggest killers of black males are now colon and prostate cancer. While health organizations have spent the last two decades convincing black men it is okay to get their prostates checked, most have still never had a colon exam.
Are these the results of the closing of the city hospitals, Homer G. Phillips Hospital, St. Louis County Hospital, Central Medical Center and the relocation of DePaul and privatizing health care?
Because African American men are over-affected by prostate and colon cancer, this call for action is first and foremost addressed to them. African-American men have the highest rate of prostate cancer in the world and the lowest rate of survival and the least access to health facilities. The head of the American Cancer Society (ACS), Charles J. McDonald, MD, says: "Black men in America are 1.5 times more likely to develop prostate cancer and are 2 to 3 times more likely to die of the disease than white men."
Ironically, colon cancer, along with prostate cancer, is two of the most curable of the cancer contractions when detected early. Prostate cancer deaths have been on the decline over the past years, however, colon cancer deaths are still on the incline as the message still hasn’t made it to black men in the same way. Black men are 10% more likely than white men to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) recently reported that though fewer African Americans are dying from colon cancer than in previous years, our death rates rank higher than any other racial or ethnic group. Prostate cancer, particularly among African Americans, is "a disgraceful tragedy that needs immediate and drastic action," says John R. Kelly, a board director of the American Cancer Society.
If this important, potentially lifesaving information is so readily available, why are African American males so reluctant to see a doctor or a clinician who has the possibility to save our lives?
In an article in “The Black Commentator’’, it criticized the reasons Black men do not get proper prostate and colon cancer examinations. It alleged manhood, in the black community, is defined in many ways. The more mature appropriate definitions are fatherhood, bread winner, protector and role model. The more immature definitions are “Gangsta,” “Playa,” “Pimp,” “Dog”, anything but a “Man”.
One of the rarest definitions of black manhood is “healthy.” Black men often confuse physique with health. They tend to work on their physiques, thinking they’re working on their health. How wrong many of them are? As society hypes outer beauty and forsakes inner beauty, black men are so busy trying to get attention in the presentation of their outer body, they forsake their inner bodies.
In his article ‘Colon Cancer: A Killer of Black Men’, author: Matthew Lynch wrote: It is through food that we as African Americans have been able to retain our sense of culture. Nonetheless, African-American cuisine, though diverse and flavorful, is often high in fat, carbohydrates, sodium and cholesterol. Even our dishes commonly referred to as soul food, includes vegetable fixings such as greens, black eye peas and sweet potatoes, are prepared with high quantities of salt and sugars.
Aside from health issues, the percentage of black men attending and graduating colleges and universities is extremely low, and decreasing. Because of this, African American males continue to remain prime candidates for poor health and victims of poverty-stricken lifestyles, prison and murder.
Diet and nutrition, the lack of proper health insurance, and stressful lifestyles also remain large contributing factors in why African Americans are at greater risk of acquiring cancer and dying from it. Black men often do not identify trouble urinating, pain urinating, or blood in the urine as possible signs of prostate cancer.
There are still major barriers and challenges to cancer prevention among African Americans, including continued mistrust of the medical community and negative attitudes toward specific screening tests.
In addition, the numbers of minorities residing in urban communities where high levels of pollution and cancer causing agents are prevalent, such as areas located near expressways and industrial districts, often referred to as ‘the inner city’ or ‘urban areas’ also weigh heavily in the reasons why blacks are more susceptible to getting cancer than whites.
But there is hope through such support organizations as he Empowerment Network and The American Cancer Society. Also the importance of the black family, the positive influence of spouses and partners on promoting cancer screening and healthy behaviors, the roles of faith and church leadership.
All agree detection is the first step. All men aged 40 and up need their physicians to check for prostate cancer with a digital rectal examination (DRE) every year, and African American men as young as 35 should have a colonoscopy. African American men and all men with a family history of prostate cancer should also get an annual PSA (prostate specific antigen) blood test. Other men can wait till age 50 for the annual PSA test.
Matthew Lynch understood it best; ‘whether or not African Americans can ever combat a system that challenges our ability to decrease the number of cancer related deaths is a question that remains unanswered. Basically, until we educate ourselves, until we obtain employment in medical agencies, public health care centers and even in senate, we will continue to hinder the health of our Black men. We must fight hard in raising and educating our boys to men so that they can become doctors and administrators in the field of medicine.
We must encourage our influential black men who are not incarcerated, dead or infected with AIDS or HIV, to get regular checkups, to eat a proper diet and more importantly, work hard at getting their families out of toxic neighborhoods crippled by social and economic factors. We must lead them to be examples, to pass on the knowledge imparted in articles such as this, so that our young ones grow up to be strong and effective’.
So Black men, the choices are yours. What would you prefer, a biopsy or an autopsy?
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Be Ever Wonderful!