Black men encouraged to get prostate checked starting in mid-40s

African American men are much more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than other men.

Yet sometimes their doctors don’t tell them they need to be screened for this deadly cancer.

That’s what happened to Floyd Gossett. So when he got his diagnosis he was “surprised, definitely surprised.”

Gossett walks with a cane these days, a result of the fatigue he feels as he battles prostate cancer. His cancer might have been discovered a year earlier had a doctor not dissuaded him from getting screened.

“I’d asked for a PSA test a year before,” he said. “But it wasn’t my primary doctor. And he had given me the message that ‘I didn’t want you to go through an unnecessary procedure.’ So, therefore, I took it for face value and I let it go.”

Then he began having problems with incontinence. He told his primary care physician.

“And she said ‘Floyd, go take a blood test,’” he recalled.

The blood test is a Prostate-specific antigen or PSA test.

“The next day she called me and said ‘you need to go see a urologist as soon as possible,’” Gossett said.

He would find out he had stage 4 prostate cancer.

When he got the difficult diagnosis, Floyd Gossett came here for treatment at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

And he was in for another shock, too.

“I walked through the door and the nurse, she said that’s going to be your physician over here,” said Gossett. “He was just coming to work.”

What did he think when he saw him? “It was a different reaction to me,” he said, a smile slowly crossing his face. “It felt safe.”

“I’m a urologic oncologist,” said Dr. Yaw Nyame, “which means I treat cancers of the urinary tract.”

Dr. Nyame is the physician who made Floyd Gossett feel safe, one of just a handful of Black urologists across the country.

He is sounding the alarm about the danger Black men face from prostate cancer that is not diagnosed early.

“Black men in the United States pretty consistently demonstrated a twofold or twice as likely risk of dying from prostate cancer compared to men of other races and ethnicities,” said Dr. Nyame.

He is the lead author of a just-released Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center study. It advocates for Black men to be screened for prostate cancer a full 10 years earlier than men of other races.

“Screening for Black men at younger ages like 45 could reduce mortality by about thirty percent relative to non-screened population,” Dr. Nyame said.

We happened upon Frederick Suazo and some friends. When asked if he ever thinks about his prostate, he said, “No, ma’am.”

If he is typical, the prostate screening message for Black men is NOT hitting its mark.

He says he is 53, that no doctor has ever mentioned testing for prostate cancer. “No,” he said.

“Right now what we’re working on is my fatigue,” said Floyd Gossett.

Gossett had surgery. But his cancer isn’t entirely gone. He and Dr. Nyame are discussing next steps.

And the doctor enlisted his help spreading the message about early screening for prostate cancer.

“To let other African American men know go get the test,” Gossett said. “It’s a simple blood test.”

A simple test that could simply be a lifesaver.

Floyd Gossett’s name may sound familiar and that is because he is a first cousin of former King County Councilman Larry Gossett.

POSTSCRIPT:

After the story aired we heard from men of various races saying they, too, have had doctors not be diligent about getting them tested for prostate cancer. Here is a link to information that may help.