I want to thank all the people who sent me well-wishes after my May column about my bout with prostate cancer.
Not long after the column, I received an email from the executive director of the Midlothian Free Health Clinic.
The clinic, which operates out of Bethlehem Lutheran Church at 388 E. Midlothian Blvd., Youngstown, is linking up with Humility of Mary Health Partners Cancer Centers, Man Up Mahoning Valley, NEO Urology and the HMHP Foundation for a free prostate screening.
The director asked if I would help get the word out. Consider that done.
The screenings, for men 40 and older, will be from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. June 13 at the clinic. Women should call and make an appointment for their men.
HMHP lab personnel will do a prostate-specific antigen — or PSA — blood draw. PSA is an enzyme made by the prostate that can be checked in a blood test. High PSA levels can be an indicator the man may have prostate cancer.
I say “may” because an enlarged prostate also can cause PSA levels to rise.
Dr. Patrick Walsh, in his book “Guide to Surviving Prostate Cancer,” advocates early screening for men older than 40 or who have a family history of prostate cancer.
He writes, “Prostate cancer is easiest to cure early on, before it spreads outside the prostate. But unfortunately, it hardly produces symptoms until in spreads outside the prostate.
“Thus, if a man wants to maximize his odds of having prostate cancer detected when it’s most curable, he needs to catch it early, and the best way to do that is with regular screening.”
The blood draw takes just a few seconds. Physicians at the free screening also will perform a digital-rectal exam. Now, this does not mean the doctor will use a high-tech device on you. No, it means the doctor will insert a lubricated finger, or digit, in your rectum to check for growths in or enlargement of the prostate gland.
This also takes no more than a few seconds.
Appointments are required, however, and can be made by calling the Humility of Mary Healthline at 330-480-3151 or toll-free 1-877-700-4647.
The men who participate will incur no cost, even for the blood work. All participants are volunteering their time.
Maraline Kubik from HMHP says the free screening “is a great opportunity for people who don’t have health insurance, have health insurance but can’t afford the co-pay, or — and this is especially true of men — who won’t go to the doctor.”
“I am encouraging every man I know to make an appointment and get screened,” she said.
So am I, Maraline. I spoke about the upcoming free prostate-cancer screening event on the Louie Free show on Vindy Talk Radio and encouraged men to come out for their free checkups.
Men, especially black men, please make the appointment as soon as you read this column, and tell your other male friends as well.
Health statistics show a greater percentage of black men die from leading killers such as prostate cancer, diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure) than do white males.
The answer to reducing the disparity is early diagnosis.
In some cases, if you have been diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer, surgery may be one of your options. Surgery, of course, is not for everyone.
I got an email from Robert D. Gillette, a retired physician, who still does some health-care-related reading.
He liked my May column, but he wanted to point out that what I wrote about was not necessarily in line with current best-practice standards for prostate-cancer management.
He wrote: “It is now understood that prostate cancer is common, but that aggressive case-finding and treatment are of true value in only a small minority of men.
“Viewed from a population standpoint, the likely side effects of treatment cause more suffering and premature deaths than result from ‘watchful waiting.’ Many men who die of other causes are found at autopsy to have prostate cancer that was never diagnosed and caused little or no harm. The notion that all older men should undergo PSA testing at frequent intervals is therefore not valid. That procedure is useful only in a limited number of male seniors.”
Watchful waiting, referred to by Dr. Gillette, also called active surveillance, is when you and your doctor watch your cancer closely to see if it causes any symptoms or appears to be growing.
Also this summer, the inaugural African American Male Wellness 5-Mile Walk/Run Warren/Youngstown to raise awareness among black men that a visit to the doctor is the key to better health outcomes, is Aug. 31.
The walk/run begins at Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church, 505 Parkcliffe Ave., on Youngstown’s South Side.
Health screenings also are part of the event.