The 20 Percent Club: The Silent Disease Affecting Young Brothers (Part One)

We all yearn to be a part of something: a fraternity, a sorority, a religious group, a professional association, a sports league, a civic organization, or a political party. Within the past few weeks, I became a member of the 20 Percent Club. Ok, to be truthful, I was drafted into this club. And, like most folks, you’re probably unfamiliar with this group. Well, I was too, until a few weeks ago.

Now, unlike most organizations, this one doesn’t require dues, an initiation process, a specified skill set, or for one to have a particular social status within the community.  This one just has a few basic requirements. One is that you must be a male. You must be black. You must be at least in your thirties to join. Lastly, you must have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, as a result of having an abnormal PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) score. As a 42-year-old black male, I meet all of the qualifications to be a member of this club.

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, one out of five black men will be diagnosed with this disease in their lifetime. Black men are 60 percent more likely to develop prostate cancer compared with white men. We’re also 2.5 times likely to die from the disease, if this disease isn’t detected before it becomes uncontrollable. Black men, like me, with a family history of prostate cancer are likely to develop the disease, too.

Stats have also shown that men with two or more relatives with the disease are nearly four times as likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Just within the past few days, I realized I am affected on both sides of my parents’ family tree. Yes, I have been literally hit with a double whammy.  And, as I have learned, my two older brothers are at a much higher risk of being diagnosed, since I contracted this disease at an early age. While the average age for men to be diagnosed with this disease is well into the sixties, it’s difficult for me to associate my age with this disease.  That’s why I thought it was so important to share my story.

Yes, like with a number of life’s ills, Black men are affected by prostate cancer at a higher rate than any other group. While there is still a lot of mystery surrounding the causes of prostate cancer, medical experts have concluded that there are a few factors driving this disease with Black men: genetics, one’s lifestyle (which includes both exercise and diet) and environmental factors. Let’s just say, I, like a number of Black men, am not immune to any of the aforementioned factors.

By now, you should have figured out why I have called this the "20 Percent Club."  Again, one out of five Black men will be affected by this disease during their lifetime. Some men who have been "drafted" have symptoms such as frequent urination, an inability to empty their bladder, pelvic pain, dripping after urination and blood in their urine, while other men have no symptoms at all. Yes, this silent disease could be living inside of you, if you’re a man, as I just recently found out it has been living inside of me.

During the month of September, a number of medical facilities around the county are offering free tests. To access the facilities, click here. In case they are filled by now or the date has passed, still contact the facility to see when free tests will be offered in the near future. Be persistent! It’s your health. Do not let this go unchecked. Take advantage of the free services being offered this month, especially if you’re underinsured or uninsured.

And, in case you’re too late for this month, in mid-October, syndicated radio DJ Tom Joyner is having his annual Tom Joyner’s Take A Love One to the Doctor Day. A number of medical facilities around the country will be offering free prostate screenings, in addition to other free services.

Ironically, as a result of the free prostate exams I received last September, it was the first warning sign that I was literally in for the ride of my life and I am not referring to the new cars I review. Stay tuned for part two as I reveal how I literally played Russian Roulette with my medical health due to fear driving my decisions.

Jeff Fortson is an auto analyst and editor of a car-buying website for women and minorities. To learn more about his popular car-buying workshop and/or to price a new-vehicle, drive on over to www.JeffCars.com. Follow him http://twitter.com/#!/JeffCars/.