Belafonte Battled Cancer

-A +A
0

“I was detected early,� said Belafonte, remarking about his success in combating the disease. “It was during my regular routine health care examination that the doctor discovered the cancer. But I have to say—I believe there were symptoms. I just assumed like many men who by the time they get to be 69, come to expect a painful twinge here and there. You assume that little pain in the lower back or in the shoulder is something connected to age and just getting old. When you age, you don’t climb the stairs quite as easily as you once did. But when I was informed of the cancer in my prostate, I opted to have the operation. After the operation, I did in fact notice at the conclusion of the cycle of my treatment, those aches and pains were no longer there.�

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, so Harry Belafonte, a wonderful artist, but more importantly, a prostate cancer survivor, took the time to reach out to The Black Star News and discuss the significance of informing men, especially African American men, about getting tested for prostate cancer.  The interview with Belafonte and urologist, Dr. Brian Alford Stone, was conducted at the Sanofi-Aventis offices (a global research-based pharmaceutical group) on Park Avenue—They explained what prostate cancer is and why it’s known as a “silent killer.â€?

“I was detected early,â€? said Belafonte, remarking about his success in combating the disease.  “It was during my regular routine health care examination that the doctor discovered the cancer.  But I have to say—I believe there were symptoms.  I just assumed like many men who by the time they get to be 69, come to expect a painful twinge here and there.  You assume that little pain in the lower back or in the shoulder is something connected to age and just getting old.  When you age, you don’t climb the stairs quite as easily as you once did.  But when I was informed of the cancer in my prostate, I opted to have the operation.  After the operation, I did in fact notice at the conclusion of the cycle of my treatment, those aches and pains were no longer there.â€? 

The prostate gland is found in men and located beneath the bladder. It is about the size of a walnut and is responsible for producing a liquid secretion that becomes part of the semen that carries sperm.  Also, it may possibly act as a bacteria barrier, protecting the urinary tract from infection. The urethra, which carries the urine out of the body passes through the center of the prostate gland and exits the penis. The cancer that occurs in the prostate gland tends to occur in the posterior aspect of the gland, which is why physicians do a digital rectal examination to check for lumps and bumps. There is a chemical that is produced by both normal and cancerous cells in the prostate called PSA or prostate specific antigen that is released into the blood stream and is the marker that doctors use to identify patients at risk of developing prostate cancer.  Men of all ages can be found to have prostate cancer.  Prostate cancer is considered a silent killer because in most patients, there are no symptoms.  Patients really don’t feel anything until the disease has advanced.  In fact, autopsies have revealed “silentâ€? prostate cancer in men who have died of other causes.

There are numerous theories behind why prostate cancer is more prevalent in African American males, but physicians do not have clear-cut scientific answers as to why the mortality rate seems to be 2 times greater in African American males than it is in the rest of the population.  “Possibly there is a genetic component,â€? explained Dr. Stone. “We know that native Africans have a rate of prostate cancer that approaches that of African American men, but African American men continue to have the highest incidences and mortality in the world.  However, there was a study done concerning Jamaican men by Dr. Frank Glover, who was a Fellow at Johns Hopkins University in the mid-1990’s, which showed that the rate and incidence of prostate cancer in native Jamaican men may be even higher than that of African American males,â€? continued the urologist.  “However, the common link is the African genetic component and diet.  It is likely that a high intake of animal fat increases the risk of developing prostate cancer (as has been shown with other cancers like breast and colon).  Family history of prostate cancer and age are also risk factors.  The incidence of prostate cancer seems to increase with the increasing of age.  I would say that all men of color are at risk for prostate cancer.  Since age is a component in the risk, it’s recommended that men of color get checked annually starting at the age of 40.  Prostate cancer seems to occur in African American men at an earlier age and is more aggressive. Even when treated, African American men have poorer outcomes compared to their white counterparts.  We don’t know why that is though economics may be a variable.  Poorer communities tend to have less access to health insurance, early detection or preventive care,â€? added the concerned health professional. 
“There is a process that occurs.  From the time a man turns 30 and for the rest of his life, his prostate enlarges,â€? commented Dr. Stone.  “Many men experience benign prostatic enlargement. Men may experience frequent or weakened urination, waking up at night to urinate because they may have a strong urge to urinate or have difficulty holding it.  These are all symptoms of enlargement but enlargement can also co-exist with prostate cancer.  As prostate cancer progresses and enlarges it can also cause these symptoms.  However, in most cases prostate cancer is detected earlier due to the use of the PSA blood test and a lot of men have had absolutely no symptoms.â€?  
Even though patients diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer generally don’t experience symptoms, a warning sign might be painful ejaculation or blood in the urine or semen.  Patients have a choice of treatment, which of course, depends on the stage of cancer at the time of detection. If detected when the cancer is confined to the prostate, the patient has a choice of either observation (which is not recommended for high risk men), radical prostatectomy surgery (which involves the removal of the entire prostate gland and sometimes lymph nodes located near the pelvic area), and radiation therapy (which is a treatment that involves the delivery of radiation energy to the prostate).  This energy can also be delivered by radioactive seed implantation that involves the placement of small radioactive pellets in the prostate.  These pellets are the size of grains of rice.  Hormone therapy, which involves reducing the levels of male hormone, is used in advanced cases of prostate cancer.  Eligard is a drug that has been used for palliative treatment in advanced cases and has shown some beneficial results.  This drug works by reducing the blood levels of testosterone, the male hormone.  Side effects of the drug include hot flashes, fatigue, frequent urination and nausea.
“In the early years of the surgical procedure, the entire prostate was removed,â€? said Belafonte. “In modern day new techniques are continually developed, doctors are able to go in and just remove prostate saving the nerves responsible for erections.  Impotence is not necessarily an issue. The nerves of course, are what contribute to sensation and sexuality.  In all probability, you do not have to lose your sexuality at all,â€? added Belafonte.  “Impotence has nothing to do with prostate cancer,â€? Dr. Stone elaborated. “It can be a side effect of the treatment.â€?

In earlier times, castration was the primary treatment option, which meant removing the testicles in order to shrink the tumor, a method that literally turned men into eunuchs. “The prostate glands growth is caused by the male sex hormone testosterone.  In order to shrink the tumor, doctors have to block the food, thereby, using drugs that block testosterone causing some men to lose their sexual desire. However, men should not lose sight of the objective, which is survival,â€? said Dr. Stone.  “You cannot have sex if you are dead.  Irrespective of whether doctors are able to save the nerves or not, impotence is a potential risk and tradeoff to survival.  However, technology has come a long way.  We have a lot of great treatments for impotence.  So, regardless of what happens, all of my patients have been able to have outstanding sex.â€?

“To the extent that science can declare it, I am completely cured of prostate cancer,â€? Belafonte added.  “However, once you have been visited by this disturbing fact, you are constantly aware of every pain that you get and realize the importance of annual preventive maintenance and health care checkups.â€? 

“The reality is men are always at risk for a reoccurrence of the disease.  No matter how small that percentage is, men are at risk and that is why urologists routinely follow the patient’s condition, even after declaring that their patients are so-called cured,â€? noted Dr. Stone. “Doctors do not know the cause of prostate cancer.  Just remember, a diet consisting of high animal fat increases the risk.  I do think an interesting study would be to examine native Japanese.  Japanese living in Japan have been found to have the lowest rate of prostate cancer in the world.â€? Belafonte concurred with the assessment.

“However, studies show when they immigrate to the United States, their rate of acquiring prostate cancer, approaches that of white males.  The only difference, once they come to America, is the change in their diet and environment,â€? continued Dr. Stone.

“I originate from Jamaica,â€? remarked Belafonte. “We lost Prime Minister Michael Manley to prostate cancer.  He went through treatment and had it surgically removed and then it came back.  Personally, in terms of prostate cancer, I think it would be wiser, for a host of reasons, to maintain a good diet and exercise consciousness.â€?

All men should educate themselves about prostate cancer. Information can be obtained through your physician, the American Cancer Society, your local library and Internet. See The Prostate Cancer Home Page at: http://www.cancer.gov/prostate/ and the Understanding Treatment Choices for Prostate Cancer site at: http://www.cancer.gov/CancerInformation/understanding-prostate-cancer-treatment.

 

Also Check Out...

The Martial Artists and Acrobats
POLICE RELEASE WANTED PHOTO OF
ACTOR WESLEY SNIPES BATTLES DEMONS
MAN SHOT TO DEATH IN ROSEDALE
Hot Summer Nights Free Concerts at
MANY BLACK AMERICANS RALLY BEHIND