One in five African American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime, and on Nov. 21, NFL Hall of Famer Michael Haynes shared his story of diagnosis and survival at “A Community Conversation on Prostate Cancer Early Detection and Education” at West Angeles Church of God in Christ.
Haynes, who is the national spokesperson for the Know Your Stats About Prostate Cancer sponsored by the National football League’s Urology Care Foundation, travels the country to encourage African American men to get educated about prostate health.
Recognized as one of the greatest running backs in NFL history who played for the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Raiders, Haynes thought he was in perfect health when he attended an NFL prostate cancer screening event in 2008.
“It was a simple blood test,” recalled Haynes. “Thirty minutes after taking my blood, the doctor asked, ‘Does prostate cancer run in your family?’ I said I didn’t know. I thought PSA stood for public service announcement.”
After being informed that prostate cancer is usually diagnosed within families, Haynes was informed by family members that his grandfather had died of the disease.
“The doctors urged me to take a biopsy exam. They checked 12 places in my body for cancer and they discovered that I had cancer in 9 out of the 12 places,” Haynes recalled.
“I was stunned. I thought the diagnosis was a death sentence,” said Haynes. “While my wife was meticulously taking notes from the doctor, I was thinking about dying and how I wanted to be remembered.”
Haynes underwent a radical prostatectomy and is now cancer free. The former defensive back said he still gets tested once a year. “It’s important to talk about early detection and there are so many treatment options available,” said Haynes. “Fortunately, I found out that after treatment I could have a normal life.”
Prostate cancer symptoms include an urgent need to urinate, decreased force in the stream of urine, chills and fever, pain in the lower back and genital area, bladder infections, and erectile dysfunction or blood in the urine or semen. Prostate cancer can be detected by taking a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) and a Digital Rectum Exam (DRE) test.
Attendees at the event received free prostate cancer health screenings from Bayer Healthcare and Vantage Oncology.
During a panel discussion, Urologists Dr. Dana Scott, Stanley K. Frencher, Robert Zimmerman, Thomas Johnson and Hematologist Leo Orr assured audience members that prostate cancer was not a death sentence. “If detected early, prostate cancer is treatable,” said Dr. Zimmerman.
“Diet, genetics, and environment contribute to prostate cancer,” Zimmerman continued, adding that 180,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in the United States each year.
“What’s important is that after treatment you continue to see your urologist and primary care physician regularly,” said Dr. Frencher.
The doctors said exercise and diet played a major role in warding off prostate cancer. “A high fat diet that includes a lot of red and processed meats can be a contributing cause for colon and breast cancer,” said Dr. Orr.
“Go for a walk 30 minutes a day, three times a week,” Dr. Scott urged. “Do arm lifts or put your feet on a bike. “
West Angeles Church of God in Christ deacon Mark Robertson, a nine-year prostate cancer survivor, assured the audience that there are many treatment options to fight prostate cancer. “I had no symptoms when I had a prostate cancer screening,” recalls Robertson. “I was shocked when I was diagnosed. At 49, you don’t think something like that will happen to you at that age.”
Freddie Muse Jr., a prostate cancer survivor and founder of The Men’s Cancer Network, urged audience members to shun eating fast food and to adhere to a plant-based diet. “I cut out the red meat and stopped eating pork 40 years ago,” said Muse. “I eat mostly fruits and vegetables now.”
Also attending the event were Tom Kirk, president and CEO of US Too; Merel Grey, president of the California Prostate Cancer Coalition; staff from the California Hospital Medical Center; and Dayna Cullins, Network Development Manager of Los Angeles Radiation Oncology Center.