Newswire (Published: Tuesday, July 30, 2019, 9:29:00 AM CDT, Received: Tuesday, July 30, 2019, 9:29:20 AM CDT)

Word Count: 632

This week about 10,000 men of Kappa Alpha Psi, one of the larger national African American fraternities, will gather in Philadelphia for their 84th Grand Chapter meeting to elect officers, attend career development seminars, network -- and learn more about prostate cancer.

The group has partnered with Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson Health and Black Health Matters, a health website and community outreach organization, to get the word out about the prevalence of prostate cancer in black men and the importance of participating in clinical trials. The program, Precision Oncology, will take place Wednesday morning as part of the six-day event.

It is an opportunity to make black men aware of the health risk, said Darryl Stephens, past president of Kappa Alpha Psi.

“Prostate cancer was a dirty word in the African American community,” he said. Men are uncomfortable getting the digital rectal exam, he said. “We just didn’t talk about it.”

For many older patients, prostate cancer can be so slow-growing, they die of some other cause. That’s why screening is now something that men are counseled to discuss with their doctor, rather than automatically having it.

But African American men have a higher risk of developing the disease at younger ages, and their risk of dying from a low-grade prostate cancer is double that of men of other races, according to the National Cancer Institute.

In 2016 there were about 31,000 new cases of prostate cancer found in African American men, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Stephens, of Wyncote, knows how important screenings can be. His father died of the disease and he is a survivor whose cancer was found early through screening.

While he knew that a tendency to develop prostate cancer can be hereditary, Stephens thought of the cancer as an “old man’s disease.” At age 45 he was diagnosed with prostate cancer when his prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, level was found to be extremely elevated. The PSA blood test checks for elevated levels of a protein shed by the prostate gland.

Stephens sought care at Fox Chase Cancer Center where he was put on an experimental chemotherapy. He eventually had his prostate removed at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and then returned to Fox Chase for follow-up radiation and hormone therapy. It’s been 20 years since his diagnosis, he said.

“Early detection is the key,” he said.

Roslyn Daniels, president and founder of Black Health Matters, said partnering with the fraternity will give the group a chance to reach 250,000 members of Kappa Alpha Psi though their outreach to local chapters.

A major part of the discussion will be about the importance of clinical trial participation, Daniels said. Without enough minorities in clinical trials, it is impossible to know if the drug being tested will work in different populations," she said.

“Not having African Americans in trials is really a public health issue,” she said. They will talk about participation, insurance coverage, and how, the trials are regulated. Many in the community, she said, remember the unethical Tuskegee Study that started in the 1930s and went on for decades, during which black men with syphilis were left untreated so scientists could see what happened.

The American Urological Association recommends that men who are considering PSA screening to talk to their doctor about the risks and downsides as well as the benefits.

Symptoms of prostate cancer include difficulty starting urination, weak or interrupted flow, frequents urination especially at night, blood in the urine or semen, pain in the back, hips or pelvis that doesn’t go away and painful ejaculation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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