April is National Minority Health Month. It is crucial to use this month to continue to raise awareness about health and healthcare disparities that exist and impact people of various racial and ethnic backgrounds. In honor of this month, Mel’s 2021 will highlight as many health conditions as possible that are impacting communities of color. Celebrating this month focuses on encouraging continuous communication about health conditions and how to prevent and treat them, educating ourselves by knowing the importance of early detection of diseases, and learning how to control chronic conditions. This week we are talking about prostate cancer awareness. Recently, an important event took place sponsored by the richest Black man in America, Robert F. Smith. Mount Sinai Health System launched a mobile prostate cancer screening unit in NYC with the generous sponsorship of Mr. Smith. The purpose of the mobile unit is to spread awareness about prostate cancer screening within communities of color. The creation of this initiative helps to mitigate the high incidence of prostate cancer in the Black community and to correct healthcare disparities that exist within our healthcare system.
According to the Mayo Clinic, Prostate cancer is cancer that occurs in the prostate and is one of the most common forms of cancer. Also according to the clinic, if detected early, and when it is confined to the prostate gland, it has the best chance of successful treatment. The key factor to highlight is early detection. Often, men and particularly men in communities of color can neglect routine exams and treatments. This great initiative went largely unnoticed and unreported although famous television and film stars, Steve Harvey, Cedric the Entertainer, and Chris Tucker were present. The event took place in a Harlem housing project in New York City. According to Essence magazine, during Mr. Smith’s speech at the April 1 launch event he stated, “As a community, we have faced and still do face a fair number of disparities in resources, access, and information. It’s important that we — which is why I brought all these beautiful Black men here to support what we do — educate each other and we bring resources to bear to help our community; not just to survive but to thrive.”
As a society, we become more obsessed with pop culture than our health. We spent well over a week discussing what the fate of Will Smith should be after his deplorable behavior at the Oscars, yet we fail to highlight or attend this historic event made possible by the richest Black man in America. Until we as a community take charge of our own health narrative and become more actively involved, we will continue to see statistics that negatively impact communities of color. The Mayo Clinic indicates as one of their risk factors for prostate cancer, is race. According to Mayo, “For reasons that aren't well-understood, Black men have a higher risk of developing and dying of prostate cancer.” Early detection is key and highlighting events and resources such as this new mobile clinic are paramount in the fight against this disease and in solving healthcare disparities.
As we continue to shed light on illnesses it is also important to remember that in doing so, the ultimate goal is to improve health outcomes and empower us to all make healthy lifestyle choices. There are new advancements in prostate cancer screening and options for those who are not insured. The availability of screening facilities coming to where a person lives is a valuable resource that should not be ignored. The hope is that this will encourage many more men to seek screening early and routinely. By holding events such as this and bringing more effective and convenient screening options such as a mobile unit to the heart of a community, we can dispel false beliefs and encourage more individual participation in one’s own healthcare journey.
In today’s society, we cannot wait for doctors to tell us what to do and what screenings to schedule. It is imperative that men take charge of their own health and request an exam. It is also important to know what your options are and to feel comfortable asking questions. This does not mean Google, Web MD, or some other online source that will encourage you to make your own diagnosis. Online reading does not substitute for seeing a doctor, however, when used correctly and in conjunction with your medical provider, it can empower you with the knowledge you need to remain healthy. Knowing your family history or the proper diet that can help improve health outcomes rather than worsen them such as a diet lacking in vegetables and high in animal fats are important tools that men can use to change the trajectory of the possibility of developing this disease.
I encourage all who come across this article to take a moment to think about what screenings you may be overdue for. Talk to your loved ones such as your dad, brother, husband, friend, or significant other, and encourage them to get screened for prostate cancer. To learn more about prostate cancer, speak to your local medical provider, health clinic, or hospital. There are many resources online if you need assistance in finding a doctor or in determining whether you need to be screened as long as you do not make any decisions without seeking professional medical advice. You can also visit The Prostate Cancer Foundation at https://www.pcf.org/contact-us/ or The American Cancer Society at https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer.html for additional information. The takeaway is, to be empowered and start today to end disparities by demanding better treatment options and by taking the lead in your own health and wellness. We all get one life to live so let’s make the most of it by staying healthy!