Health Fair Set for Sat., Sept. 15 in Rialto
By Dianne Anderson
When it comes to doctor visits, there isn’t too much more seemingly invasive than a DRE, Digital Rectal Exam, of which the mere mention can make a strong man weak in the knees.
Michael Lexion understands why, even though tests and treatment are better today than in the old days, and one simple blood test can be a lifesaver.
At his regular church workshops, he advises his prostate cancer awareness group that all men should know their PSA number, and it should be the first question for their doctor. For Black men, who are typically diagnosed younger and twice as likely as white men to die from prostate cancer, there is no room for error.
He recommends taking all tests available. Better yet, get a second opinion.
“If you’re going to have an exam, I suggest to all men take the PSA. If the numbers come back low, take another one and get a rectal exam as well,” he said.
On September 15, the Greater Faith Grace Bible Church is hosting the Diversity and Wellness Health Fair with 30 health booths and free PSA tests. On-site, the Black Nurses Association will give diabetes and blood pressure testing. Dental professionals will offer exams. There will be free vision testing, free echocardiograms, lupus support, free haircuts, and a food drive.
The event will be held at 249 E Randall Ave in Rialto from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Lexion said it’s a great opportunity for men to learn their PSA number and get involved with free prostate support groups to understand the latest treatment, and where to get regular screenings.
He feels that women should also be in on the process.
“If you’re married take your mate in there,” he said. “The important thing with men is their diet, the food, the fat, and fried food, that is not good for your prostate.”
Two church members that attend his workshops are now receiving treatment, and doing very well, he said.
“One is doing really good, the numbers have dropped, there are no signs. He’s pleased right now,” Lexion said. “Another one that had a surgery, his [treatment] was just for enlarged prostate.”
Lexion recalls his own nerve-wracking experience several years ago with an enlarged prostate, which could have been cancerous. The symptoms were similar. It was the scariest news he’d ever received, and he had the surgery.
He said the bottom line is that men should never wait, and all men should be concerned if their PSA number is at four, or more.
“Four or five you’re at the first stage and you need to address it. If it gets to seven, eight or up there, you’re probably going to be doing surgery,” he said.
For those without health insurance, several local clinics and hospitals offer free screenings, but he feels that men also must take responsibility to locate services in their community, and follow up with testing.
His wife Connie, a nutritionist, has made it nearly impossible for him to go off his regular healthy eating regimen, which he feels has made all the difference in his personal story. He did have prostate surgery, but it was cancer-free.
“I’m blessed enough to have a wife who was a nutritionist at UC Davis for 40 years,” he said. “She doesn’t cook fried foods. It’s not at the house.”
Erlinda Patterson, now retired, has also worked in urology for about 20 years, where she saw many prostate cancer clients.
Today, in her outreach at health fairs, she usually opens with prostate cancer statistics, which should be scarier than whatever else is keeping men from getting the DRE or PSA test.
Over the years, she finds that most men react in one of two ways to the news. The first big concern for about 60% of men of color is the potential loss of sexuality, followed by the other 40 percent who just want to stay alive.
For Latinos, a lot of men that she has dealt with express fear that the DRE will make them gay.
Of all the variables that keep men away from the doctor, she believes the most difficult aspect is getting them to open up and talk about what they’re feeling.
“Men do not want to let you know. They don’t want to face it, they don’t want to get tested because they are afraid that it’s going to come back – that yes, you have it,” she said.
Out of sight and out of mind is not the solution. Once men learn about treatment options and reassured that something can be done to help them, she finds they are open to guidance.
At the event, clients will get their free PSA test, receive follow-up calls on their status, and connected with resources and treatment, if needed. She expects at least 40 men to come out. There will be survivors on site, and everyone is invited to participate.
“It’s something that men have to wake up to,” she said. “In spite of prostate cancer, you can live. There’s always treatment or watchful waiting which is keeping an eye on the PSA level.”
Recently, one Cleveland Clinic survey found that men, in general, don’t like to go to the doctor, but the problem is likely greater for Black men.
Research indicates that Black men, now facing the lowest life expectancy of all races, would prefer to go to doctors that look more like them because they want better health care.
A study involving 1,300 Black participants expressed that Black doctors tended to take more complete notes on patients, express verbal and nonverbal concern for their patients, and provided a higher comfort level in health conversations. Across various health categories, particularly for invasive tests, Black patients were more likely to agree to more tests if their doctors were Black.
One problem is that Black doctors are hard to find.
The Association of American Medical Colleges reports that African Americans comprise about 13 percent of the general population, but only four percent of all physicians.
“Our findings suggest black doctors could help reduce cardiovascular mortality by 16 deaths per 100,000 per year — leading to a 19% reduction in the black-white male gap in cardiovascular mortality,” the study said.
The good news is that Black men who start a specific chemotherapy drug early on in the process have an equal or better chance of survival than whites. Recently, Duke University researchers released studies on how race may impact survival, and response to treatment.
“The results of this analysis suggest there might be biological variations associated with race in either the disease or response to treatments that need to be further explored. Our study highlights the importance of minority groups participating in medical studies,” said lead researcher, Susan Halabi, Ph.D.
In another Duke University study, researchers looked at equal groups of Black and white participants with metastatic or resistant prostate cancer. Both groups were treated with anti-hormone therapy and a steroid, and African-American men also showed a greater positive response to therapy and a PSA marker decline than white men.
Daniel George, M.D., director of Duke’s Prostate & Urologic Cancer program, presented his findings at the 2018 annual meeting of the American Society for Clinical Oncology in Chicago.
“In this setting, we demonstrated that African-American men may be more responsive to specific hormonal intervention,” said George. “There is an urgent need to explore the underlying genetic differences associated with treatment response.”
For more information on the event, or prostate workshops, call (909) 875-4891