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Prostate Cancer Patient Stays In The Game

August 9, 2018
By: Jessica Hyland, Writer

Robert Dixon visits with his radiation oncologist, W. Robert Lee.It’s an early Monday morning as Robert Dixon, 58, strolls into Duke Cancer Center. He greets the staff behind the information desk before heading over to the elevators, descending down a couple floors to clinic 00. Today is his first appointment with his radiation oncologist. A few months ago, Dixon attended the annual Men’s Health Initiative (MHI), a service offered by the Office of Health Equity at Duke Cancer Institute that provides free prostate cancer screenings. Through this outreach event, Duke doctors identified early stage prostate cancer in Dixon.

“In 2012 I attended the MHI event and had a clear bill of health,” explained Dixon, who read about the screenings in his local newspaper. “Five years later, I decided to attend the screening again. I didn’t have any symptoms and honestly, I thought I was healthy. I’m so thankful for these screenings, without them I wouldn’t have known I had cancer. This screening saved my life!”

According to the American Cancer Society, one in nine men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and it is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men. Moreover, men of African descent are 73 percent more likely to develop prostate cancer than Caucasian men and are nearly three times more likely to die from the disease.

“In Durham, we have community members who face barriers to accessing cancer screenings and quite frankly, the messages about who should get screened for prostate cancer and when, has caused some confusion for men in our community. Men need both access to these critical services and clarity from the medical field so they can take this critical health information and act on it, by getting screened” describes Nadine Barrett, PhD, director of the Office of Health Equity at Duke Cancer Institute. “The Men’s Health Initiative helps eliminate the barriers preventing eligible men in our community from getting prostate cancer screening and access to healthcare. Critical to our program is the importance of men making informed decisions to get screened for prostate cancer. Nationally, African American men have a higher rate of being diagnosed and dying from prostate cancer, and through our partnership with Lincoln Community Health Center we are raising awareness and creating opportunities to promote good health practices and screenings.”

For the past two decades, the Office of Health Equity at Duke Cancer Institute in partnership with Lincoln Community Health Center has co-hosted the Men’s Health Initiative (MHI), an outreach event aimed at screening men, particularly African American men for chronic diseases, including prostate cancer. Men between the ages of 45 and 75, who have never been diagnosed with prostate cancer, are encouraged to participate in the free screening. The prostate cancer screening includes a specific antigen (PSA) test and digital rectal exam (DRE). The event also provides attendees with several other screenings such as free blood pressure exams and diabetes testing.

“The most important thing I can tell others is to educate yourself and know your numbers,” said Dixon. “If you don’t get the results you were hoping for, trust your healthcare team and know they are fighting with you. Personally, I have all the confidence in the world with my clinicians. My doctors are amazing, and I know together we will beat this.”

Approximately 300 men from across the Triangle area of North Carolina are expected to attend this year’s screening, which takes place on Saturday, Sept. 8th, 2018 from 8 a.m. to noon at Lincoln Community Health Center, and Sunday, Sept. 9th, 2018 from noon to 4 p.m. at Duke Croasdaille Clinic.

After the event, test results for PSA are mailed to participants’ homes. If further examination is recommended, patient navigators contact the participant to schedule appointments, assess financial need and provide referrals to health resources in the community.

“Community education and access to screening are absolutely critical,” explains Barrett. “If we are going to beat this disease, we need to stay in front of it. Knowing your numbers is an important step in the right direction.”

For more information on Men’s Health Initiative, call 919.684.4056. Appointments are not necessary and the program is free.