RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina ranks seventh in the country in prostate cancer deaths. Black men in the state have the highest incidence in the world.
The challenge is to convince men who think they are healthy that getting annual exams could save their lives. Prostate cancer is 90 percent curable if caught early.
When Quince Fleming turned 40, he gave himself a present: complete annual physical exams.
"It was because of the fact that I did yearly exams that my cancer was caught," he said.
Fleming had early stage prostate cancer. If left undetected, it could have grown beyond the wall of the prostate and spread into his body.
That is when noticeable symptoms usually appear.
"I guarantee you, if you wait until you have symptoms, you're going to have a less favorable outcome than you do if you are proactive and discover something early," said Dr. Leroy Darkes of the Rex Senior Health Center.
American Cancer Society
recommends prostate cancer screening starting at age 50. Exams should begin at age 40 for black men or those with a family history of the disease.
The screening should consist of a PSA blood test and a digital exam.
It is an exam most men would rather avoid -- and not just because it is uncomfortable.
"Most men don't want to hear bad news," Fleming said, "You know, if it doesn't hurt, we would rather say, 'Well, there's nothing wrong.'"
Fleming chose to have his prostate removed. He is cancer-free because he did not avoid getting checked.
"The only thing you avoid when you avoid getting checked is the opportunity to cure the disease," Darkes said.
There are several options for treating prostate cancer. Beside removing the prostate, older patients may want less aggressive treatment with radiation and chemotherapy.