Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s recent prostate cancer revelation shocked many, especially in the Black community. His delayed disclosure highlights the stigma around this disease. But why is prostate cancer so prevalent and deadly for Black men?
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in American men. The American Cancer Society estimates about 300,000 new cases and over 35,000 deaths in 2024.
Though uncertainty persists over higher prevalence in Black men, the disease tends to be more aggressive and lethal. Black men face double the mortality risk of white men.
Limited screening and delayed treatment are key factors. According to a 2022 Cancer study, worse outcomes result from less frequent screening and care access among Black men.
Depending on socioeconomics, they may not get screened as vigorously as white and Asian men. Consequently, cancer progresses further by diagnosis, hampering survival.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force proposes informed PSA screening choices for men 55-69, and against testing over 70. However, leading urologists advise earlier assessment for high-risk Black men, ages 40-45, aligning with American Urological Association guidance.
What Are Early Symptoms?
Most men exhibit no symptoms until advanced disease stages. Potential signs include:
- Difficulty urinating
- Blood in urine
- Pain near the prostate
PSA blood testing is currently the only early screening method.
Why the Sensitive Stigma?
Austin’s delayed disclosure mirrors the struggle many men face. Doctors emphasize prostate cancer’s sensitivity among men. After diagnosis and treatment, patients often become more open. But initial stigma persists, as evident from Austin’s case.
Beyond disease-related sensitivities, the situation also highlights men’s healthcare disengagement. Unlike women’s routine OB-GYN care, men lose structural health connections beyond school. Persistent gender norms also discourage men from addressing medical issues.
How to Boost Screening and Save Lives
Prostate cancer doesn’t have to be a death sentence. When detected and treated early, survival is highly likely. But stigma inhibits screening that makes early intervention possible.
Expert advice for at-risk Black men:
- Talk with your doctor and get screened regularly from ages 40-45. Don’t let stigma get in the way.
- Know your family history and disclose concerns to your physician.
- Seek timely care if experiencing possible symptoms. Delay can be deadly.
- Encourage fathers, uncles and other loved ones to get checked. Lead by example.
- Spread awareness in your community and social circles. Our culture needs more open conversations on men’s health.
With informed action, we can defeat this stigma and boost early detection. Saving men’s health starts with each difficult conversation.