FORT LAUDERDALE — Broward Health and the Urban League of Broward County's Young Professionals Network are sponsoring "An Evening of Black Health" at Broward General Medical Center on Wednesday, Sept. 9.

"We really feel that African Americans need to take a lot more initiative with their health and pay a lot more attention to their bodies," said Norvel Bethel, president of the Urban League of Broward County's Young Professionals Network.

To help inform more people, the event will showcase a panel of medical professionals who will discuss various issues affecting the health of African Americans today, such as sickle cell anemia, prostate cancer, hypertension, diabetes, infant mortality and obesity.

Plans for "An Evening of Black Health" began in June, with a final decision in July to hold the event in September.

September, which boasts various health awareness campaigns, is dedicated to raising awareness for sickle cell anemia and prostate cancer, diseases which disproportionately affect African Americans.

Prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death among men, and one in six men will develop prostate cancer in their lifetimes, according to the American Cancer Society.

Statistically, African-American men are more likely to have prostate cancer, and are more than twice as likely to die from it as other ethnicities, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Fifty-year old John Bullock discovered that he was among that population. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in May 2008.  The diagnosis left the married father of two "devastated," he said.

"In a way, I didn't believe [the doctor] because other than the first episode, I wasn't sick," said Bullock of the symptoms – urinating blood and weak urine flow – which inspired him to visit the doctor after nearly 20 years without a regular check up. 

Bullock's lack of warning signs is not uncommon. Prostate cancer often does not have any symptoms in its early stages, according to the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms range from urinary problems such as blood in the urine or semen, to pain in the pelvic area and even swelling of the legs. All of these symptoms can be mistaken for a number of non-prostatic diseases.

"Prostate cancer is typically a silent disease," said Dr. Michael Zahalsky, a urologist at North Broward Medical Center in Pompano Beach.

To correctly diagnose more men with prostate cancer, Zahalsky recommends annual prostate cancer screenings for men beginning at age 50. He also recommends screenings for individuals in high-risk groups such as African Americans, and those with a genetic history of the disease. They should start being tested when they are 45, he said.

In addition to the typical digital rectal exam method, men can also receive a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test.

Men should have both tests done because neither test is completely accurate, Zahalsky said.

Currently, there are a number of treatment options for those diagnosed with prostate cancer. They include hormone therapy, surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and the active surveillance method (which involves deferring treatment, while watching closely for signs of whether the cancer is progressing). 

Fifty-nine year old John Harley chose to have radiation therapy at North Broward Medical Center's Cancer Center after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in February. He said he remembers that, while undergoing the 42 days of radiation treatment, he was no longer able to eat certain foods, had irregular urination, and even had pain in his rectum.

Today, he still experiences slight rectal pain, but has no complaints.

"All in all, it's bearable," Harley said. 

Meanwhile, Bullock, who also chose radiation therapy at North Broward Medical Center, sees a doctor every three months for a check up.

"I had to get used to it," Bullock admitted.

Nevertheless, Bullock, who has two brothers, is urging family members to visit the doctor more often.

"I tell my brothers [to] make sure they get tested and things like that so they don't have to go through nothing like I did," Bullock said.


WHAT: An Evening of Black Health

WHO: Speakers: Dr. Monisola Oni – diabetes; Dr. Matthew Moretti – prostate cancer and hypertension; Dr. Keisha Goodison – Obesity; and spoken-word artist Jimmie "Pureblood" Emile – sickle-cell disease. 

WHEN: Wednesday, Sept. 9 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

WHERE: Broward General Medical Center, 1600 S. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale

CONTACT: To RSVP, please call 954-759-7400