COLUMN — Be a man: Get checked for cancer
“There is a silent health crisis in America … It’s the fact that, on average, American men live sicker and die younger than American women.” – Dr. David Gremillion, Men’s Health Network
June is a great time to think about the men in your life. With Father’s Day around the corner, many of us are considering what gifts we can give to the men we love. But June is also National Men’s Health Month and the very best gift any of us can give to ourselves, our friends and loved ones is the gift of good health.
Statistics reflect that men die at higher rates than women — almost five years earlier. This could be caused by several concerning trends witnessed among American men. One startling statistic is that women are 100% more likely to visit the doctor for annual examinations and preventive services than men.
“Somewhere along the way, men became convinced that we don’t need medical interventions or that it would be better not to know what is going on in our bodies,” Jefferson County Commissioner Everette “Bo” Alfred said. “That simply isn’t true. With good nutrition, exercise and regular trips to the doctor, men can avoid some of the diseases that commonly harm us.
“And, the sooner we find out what is happening with our health, the better are our chances for doing something about it quickly and easily. It doesn’t pay to put off any health concerns you may have. Remember your wealth is your health. Men, if you are healthier, you are wealthier.”
The health risks and disparities experienced by men also stem from a lack of healthcare. Studies indicate that men are significantly less likely to have health insurance than women. Many men without health insurance or with prohibitively expensive insurance policies aren’t aware that there are services available to help them receive lifesaving medical care regardless of their ability to pay.
“I think men often think that there’s nothing they can do about their health because they can’t afford it,” says Joe King, prostate cancer survivor and Gift of Life advocate. “However, there are many services and organizations out there to help men. In Southeast Texas, we are fortunate to have the Gift of Life, which provides free health screenings for local men in need. I love volunteering with them because I want to show other men that there is help available! Don’t be afraid to reach out!”
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men, apart from skin cancer. About one in every nine men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and one in 41 men will die of the disease.
This is truly devastating because prostate cancer is a highly treatable cancer. The five-year survival rate for localized prostate cancer that is diagnosed early is nearly 100%. With simple prostate cancer screenings available, like the prostate-specific antigen blood test, men can easily protect their lives from the potential danger of the disease.
“I tell everyone I meet about the Gift of Life,” says prostate cancer survivor Eddie Ray Brown. “They truly save lives. I was going through a difficult time and they were there for me.
“They not only helped me cope with my prostate cancer, but they improved my quality of life. I can attend prostate cancer support group meetings and talk with men going through the same thing I’m experiencing. And I can give back and help other men get the help they need. The Gift of Life is a blessing and more men need to take advantage of it.”
This June, the Gift of Life is providing more than 500 men with $300 worth of free Men’s Health tests, including prostate cancer screenings, primary care tests (blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, HIV, Hepatitis C) and a consultation with a physician at convenient locations in Beaumont, where nearly 250 men were screened on June 8; Port Arthur, on June 22 at the Carl Parker Center; and Orange, on June 29 at the J. Michael & Bridget Shahan Event Facility at Lamar State College Orange.
Screenings are conducted from 9-noon. Local men residing within seven Southeast Texas counties can attend any screening site; Hispanic and Vietnamese translators are available; and transportation will be provided, if needed. At each event there are giveaways, door prizes and refreshments.
Eligible men are urged to pre-register by calling 409-833-3663 or visiting giftoflifebmt.org. Walk-in clients will be accepted as accommodations allow.
We hope you will join us for this important opportunity to turn your health around this June. Together we echo the same message: Be a man. Get checked!
Commissioner Everette “Bo” Alfred is Beaumont community chair; Eddie Ray Brown is Port Arthur community chair; and Joe King, Orange community chair for Gift of Life.