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Massey director joins American Cancer Society, National Football League for prostate cancer panel discussion

Feb 09, 2024

Crucial Catch live panel participants, including Massey director Robert A. Winn, Ph.D. Photo credit: American Cancer Society

As fans flocked to Las Vegas, Nevada ahead of Super Bowl LVIII, the American Cancer Society (ACS) and National Football League (NFL) were also there, leveraging interest in the big game to address prostate cancer disparities.

On Tuesday Feb. 6, the NFL and ACS hosted “Crucial Catch LIVE,” a panel discussion that included Robert A. Winn, M.D., director and Lipman Chair in Oncology at VCU Massey Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Winn, a national ACS Board Member, served as the panel’s medical expert on prostate cancer disparities among African Americans. According to the ACS, one in six Black men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, compared to an incidence rate of one in eight for men of all racial and ethnic groups; Black men are twice as likely to die from prostate cancer.

Winn said current screening recommendations and cultural attitudes about digital rectal exams keep too many Black men away from their doctors’ offices.

“The reality is the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and the digital rectal exam, just a simple exam that may only take less than a minute, could save your life,” explained Winn. “What I say to people is, ‘What's the price of your life?’”

Panel of participants on Crucial Catch live Photo credit: American Cancer Society

Panel moderator Brian Custer, an ESPN sportscaster and 10-year prostate cancer survivor, said early detection through routine screenings is crucial because the disease can often be a “silent killer” when symptoms only present themselves at an advanced stage.

“There [aren’t going to be symptoms] that smack you up on the head until it's too late,” Winn cautioned.

The following NFL representatives also shared their experiences with prostate cancer:

  • Brandon Bolden, Las Vegas Raiders running back and cancer survivor
  • Will Gholston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end
  • Mike Haynes, Pro Football Hall of Famer and prostate cancer survivor
  • Rashad Jennings, former New York Giants running back

Jennings is a native of Forest, Virginia, a town outside of Lynchburg, which is within Massey’s catchment area, defined as the 66 localities served by the cancer center.

Jennings said diet, exercise and sleep are important to overall health, and he reminded all men to be proactive about routine exams.

“It's on you to get screened and tested, and it's not just for you. You affect everybody else around you, and so that is one of the reasons why I'm very conscious about my health and my fitness,” said Jennings. “I look at life backwards not in a morbid way at all, but we all will experience death. And, I want to be able to leave a legacy for my family, to chase and follow, and the only way I can do that is be very conscious of the decisions I make while I'm here. And health is one of them.”

Custer acknowledged the recent prostate cancer deaths of notable Black men, including Dexter King, the son of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Joe Madison, a legendary radio host and civil rights champion.

Winn stated that survival is more likely when prostate cancer is detected at an early stage. He encouraged dialogue among family members to identify risks.

“Family secrets kill,” Winn said. “Around Thanksgiving [talking about health] would be important because if you knew you had a couple of uncles [who were diagnosed with or died from prostate cancer], it would [prompt you to say], ‘I'm not going to go with the regular screening guidelines. I'm going to get screened early.’”

The ACS recommends prostate cancer screening at:

  • Age 50 for men who are at average risk of prostate cancer and are expected to live at least 10 more years
  • Age 45 for men at high risk of developing prostate cancer, including African American men and men who have a first-degree relative (father or brother) diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age (younger than age 65).
  • Age 40 for men at even higher risk (those with more than one first-degree relative who had prostate cancer at an early age)

The ACS and NFL have partnered since 2009 to address cancer disparities with Crucial Catch, which is held through the ACS Community Health Advocates implementing Nationwide Grants for Empowerment and Equity (CHANGE) program. Since 2012, NFL funding has contributed to more than 650,000 cancer screenings and has reached more than 1.22 million individuals who cannot otherwise afford access.

Written by: Amy Lacey

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