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“Prostate cancer has a taboo preventing Black men from talking about it”

As Black men, we keep things close to the hip,” says Vincent M. Bivins, MD (above), president of Urology Centers of Alabama. “I’ve diagnosed patients with prostate cancer, and they say they’re not going to tell their wife or kids. One guy has been cured of prostate cancer for seven years, and he never told his wife. It’s just that stigma.”

Some men don’t want to get a PSA because they might be diagnosed with cancer, Bivins says. “They think back to the experiences of their fathers or uncles with prostate cancer, when treatment was more likely to lead to complications like incontinence and impotence. That sort of became the brand, even though the technology has greatly improved, and complications are not as bad compared to 30 years ago.”

Trying to get men to do a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test is usually easy. But getting them to agree to a digital rectal exam is very challenging, especially if they have no symptoms, Bivins explains.

“We’ve got to take that “invading” stigma away. First, we have to help men understand the importance of the exam. That means explaining that 18% of people with prostate cancer have a normal PSA, and the only way you’re going to find cancer in those patients is through a digital rectal exam. It’s also incumbent upon the provider to help men relax and not rush through the exam.”

See “As Black Men, We Keep Things Close to the Hip”: 5 Questions for a Urologist About Prostate Cancer” by Tamekia Reece on the Johnson & Johnson website (February 23, 2023)

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