OP-ED: Farrington is the founder and president of the Prostate Health Education Network.
As a 12-year prostate cancer survivor who lost my father and both grandfathers to this disease, I have made it my personal mission to
increase awareness and understanding of this insidious disease among the African American community. Like most men, I was totally uninformed and unprepared for what I was about to face when I received my diagnosis.
Since then, I have immersed myself in learning all I can about prostate cancer and the challenges we face as black men. In 2003, I founded the Prostate Health Education Network (PHEN) to focus on our unique and urgent needs. Here’s what I want every black man to understand:
●Prostate cancer discriminates: African Americans are 60 percent more likely to develop prostate cancer and twice as likely to die from it than any other racial or ethnic group nationwide.
●We not only have a higher incidence and death rate from prostate cancer, but research also suggests that prostate cancer develops more rapidly in African American men, leading to a greater likelihood of more aggressive disease at an early age.
●The Senate passed a resolution July 26 recognizing the occurrence of prostate cancer among African American men to be of epidemic proportions. This resolution was sponsored by Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), a prostate cancer survivor, and it was co-sponsored by five senators who are also survivors.
●President Obama issued a proclamation designating September as National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, in which he stated, “Prostate cancer is especially prevalent among African American men, who experience both the highest incidence and the highest mortality rates of prostate cancer.”
This week in the nation’s capital, PHEN is hosting its Eight Annual African American Prostate Cancer Disparity Summit, where we bring leaders together from around the country with the goal of developing strategies for eliminating prostate cancer’s racial disparity. Coincidentally, the District has the highest incidence of prostate cancer nationwide and the second highest death rate in the country.
An expert panel has been assembled for our first session, to be held in the Russell Senate Building, titled “Why the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) Recommendation Against Early Detection PSA Testing Should Not Apply to African Americans and Men With a Family History of Prostate Cancer.”
The USPSTF recommendation against PSA screening — a test that, according to the National Cancer Institute, “measures the blood level of a protein that is produced by the prostate gland” — was driven by evidence from randomized controlled clinical trials designed specifically for a test known as prostate-spec screening. According to the USPSTF, these trials did not include a statistically significant number of black men. The USPSTF then resorted to using “preliminary”data from a non-PSA screening trial to include the men most at risk for prostate cancer within its recommendation. Our expert panel will examine the clinical trial used in this double standard and the scientific evidence resulting from it.
Our second session will focus on “Moving Beyond the PSA Test: Controversy Through the Evolving Impact of Genomics and Biomarkers.” Some of the exciting developments in this area will be presented by the leading organizations responsible for them.
PHEN has developed nationwide education and awareness outreach initiatives in partnership with faith-based organizations. The third summit session will be held at New Samaritan Baptist Church and will focus on strategies for expanding and strengthening these important community action initiatives.
We are very encouraged by the new prostate cancer treatments that are extending survival with fewer debilitating side effects than when I was diagnosed in 2000. Beginning with the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of Provenge in 2010, a revolutionary immunotherapy treatment, and the recent approval of Xtandi, these are exciting and transformative times. I believe that prostate cancer patients can look forward to much brighter days.
We desperately want to eliminate the darkness of suffering the largest racial disparity for any type of major cancer. Our needs cannot and should not be ignored, nor can we step backward on any issue. This is why the PSA test issue for us is so critical and why a double standard is unacceptable.
PHEN’s summit is free to the public. For details and to register, go to www.rapcancer.org.
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