Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of articles provided by The Caribbean Male Action Network (CariMAN), which “aims to bring together men and organisations throughout the Caribbean engaged in work with and for men.” The articles are published monthly. This article was written by Owen ‘Blakka’ Ellis and first appeared in The Star newspaper in Jamaica.
Hey, did you know that September is being observed as Prostate Cancer Awareness Month? Do you even care to know? Oh, and did you know that African-American and Jamaican men of African descent have the highest prostate-cancer incidence and mortality rates in the world? Yes, in the whole world! Sobering thought, eh? But you know how it goes with men and doctors!
I saw some statistics the other day from a report coming out of the US-based Centers for Disease Control that says women are 33 per cent more likely than men to visit a doctor in general (although the gap narrows as men age), and that didn’t surprise me. Why men generally don’t like visiting the doctor? Is it out of fear of finding out that we’re frailer than we pretend? Or is it our backward belief in the falsehood of male invincibility? Whatever the reasons, men’s resistance to confronting mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health issues remains a major problem. And men continue to get sicker and die quicker.
I found a 2010 article by Phillip Hamilton in The Gleaner that makes reference to a study on prostate cancer among Caribbean men of African descent. That study revealed that there was a 270 per cent increase in the disease among Jamaican men between 1983 and 2007. Well, I don’t need to conduct a study; I can guess that the figures are not drastically different in other parts of the region. Oh, and by the way, the tired myth that consumption of ackee contributes to increased prostate cancer among Jamaican men has been shot down by the experts.
I recently saw some TV adverts for a special supplement for men called Super Beta Prostate, quoting statistics that say 50 per cent of men over 50 and 80 per cent of men over 80 experience prostate problems, and all I could say was ouch! How about you? That’s some serious statistics, my people! So how many of us over-50 guys think we belong in the safe 50 per cent? And how many of you over-80 fellows feel you’re in the lucky 20 per cent? And no matter your age, look into the mirror and ask yourself this question if you’re a man: How healthy am I, really?
I came upon a press story just this week, where the executive director of the Jamaica Cancer Society, Yulit Gordon, was reportedly urging Jamaican men to get regular screening as a way of protecting themselves from prostate cancer. It’s an important call. The thing though, is that the main way of screening for prostate problems involves an examination that most men find very, ahm … well, uncomfortable! We should try to deal with it, though. It’s rough but it’s life.
Women have to handle the regular discomfort of Pap smear and breast cancer screening tests and they deal with it, so tough it up too, guys, because here are some more statistics for you. Of the one, two, and few men over 40 that I spoke with in my informal survey before writing this, a startling percentage or ‘almost di whole ah dem’ have not had their prostate checked in the past three years.
Why? Zero per cent of the men I surveyed found the examination anywhere near pleasant. And 100 per cent of them said even though they understood the preventative health value of the examination, they absolutely hated the idea of having anything inserted into their nether regions. I did it recently, and mi ah tell yuh … it’s a pain in the rear, but try to do it, yu hear!