At 94, Theodore Speights can credit many things for his health and longevity, but prostate cancer screening is at the top of his list. “A few years ago I went to the doctor for my physical exam and they found symptoms of cancer,” Speights said. “They decided I didn’t need surgery, but told me I should go to the screenings at Lincoln Community Health Center.” Over the past several years, Speights’ prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels have remained elevated but steady, so the Durham native and his health-care providers have kept a watchful eye on his condition. Elevated PSA levels may indicate cancer.
African-American males like Speights are more than twice as likely to die from prostate cancer as are white men. The reasons for this are unknown, but the best defense for any man is early detection. Unfortunately, African-American men are less inclined to get screened for the disease.
Many men don’t discover they have prostate cancer until it is too late. Each year, about 200,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer and about 30,000 men die from it. For African-American men, the incidence is about 60 percent higher than in white men. And African-American men tend to be diagnosed at later stages, making the disease harder to treat. Yearly screenings are recommended for men over 40 who are in high-risk groups, and men over 50 who are not at risk. The majority of prostate cancer cases occur in men over 50, with 70 percent of cases occurring in men over age 65. Speights has some advice for men considering attending the screenings this weekend. “If you’re over 40, go,” he said. “Take advantage of it.”