By Devon Jones

The prostate gland is a male reproductive organ located below the bladder. This walnut-sized gland nourishes and transports semen throughout the male reproductive system. According to the Urology Care Foundation, there are four stages of prostate cancer: early stages (I and II), where the tumor has not spread beyond the prostate; locally advanced (III), where cancer has spread outside the prostate but only to nearby tissues; and advanced stage (IV), where cancer has spread outside the prostate to other parts such as the lymph nodes, bones, liver or lungs.

According to the Prostate Conditions Education Council, among males, prostate cancer is the most common cancer and the second leading cause of death in men. Prostate cancer is not deadly when diagnosed and treated promptly, thus screening and detection are key to preventing negative outcomes. In observance of Prostate Cancer Awareness Month (September), The Cleveland Observer (TCO) has collaborated with Heart, Body, and Soul to bring much-needed information and resources to Cleveland residents that will help them understand prostate cancer and how it can be addressed. We asked Dr. Randy Vince, a practicing urologist at University Hospital’s Cutler Center for Men, some frequently asked questions about prostate cancer and its impact on the community.

Why is prostate cancer so prevalent in Black males?

The short answer is nobody knows a definitive cause. Historically, and even sometimes currently, people have stated that Black men have genes that predispose them to prostate cancer more than other men. However, despite billions of dollars of research, nobody has shown a gene or any related genes that account for this difference. Recently, environmental exposures, such as increased pollution and other social determinants of health, have surfaced as a potential cause, as we know these factors impact a man’s risk for developing many health conditions.

Is prostate cancer preventable? If so, what are some ways to prevent it?

There’s no definitive method to prevent prostate cancer. In fact, as men, the longer we live, the higher the risk of developing prostate cancer. However, many men who develop prostate cancer don’t need treatment. A percentage of men will develop non-aggressive prostate cancer that doesn’t impact their health. However, a significant number of men will have prostate cancer that’s aggressive and could potentially be lethal. This is why screening is so important to find men who benefit most from treatment.

What are the symptoms of prostate cancer? When should men go see a urologist to get checked for prostate cancer?

Like many other health conditions, it’s too late when you have symptoms. Prostate cancer is no different. By the time you have symptoms from prostate cancer, the cancer is advanced and potentially incurable. This again highlights why it is so important to undergo screening. Detecting cancer early-on increases the chances of a potential cure. Guidelines for prostate cancer vary, but if you have a family member who’s diagnosed with prostate cancer, you should undergo screening at least 10 years before the age of your family member’s diagnosis. If not, you should start discussing PSA screening at the age of 50.

Prostate Cancer and its devasting impact on African American men can not go unnoticed. According to Zero Prostate Cancer, Black men are 1.7 times as likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer and 2.1 times as likely to die from it than white men. As Dr. Vince stated, there is no clear reason as to why black men are predisposed to this condition. There has been some discussion of social determinants of health being one of the leading causes but this has yet to be proven. To prevent prostate cancer the best thing to do is to get screened. One of the easiest ways to get screened for prostate cancer is a PSA test, which is done by blood draw.

To provide more information on this condition, TCO will be hosting a live-streamed event in collaboration with Heart, Body, and Soul titled “Me and My Prostate: A Virtual Conversation about Prostate Health, Prostate Screening, and Surviving Prostate Cancer.” This live-streamed panel will be held on September 13, 2023, 6 p.m.-7 p.m. with Dr. Randy Vince and several individuals who have survived the disease. Click here to register: