SOUTHWEST, FLA. — Barney Morris says he understands why you might steer clear of cancer screenings.
“First thing that comes to your mind is you’re going to die.”
Morris knows that thought first hand.
A routine medical exam for his job as a senior agent for the United States Postal Service revealed an elevated PSA (prostate-specific antigen).
He was referred to a urologist and received further testing.
The father of three recalls the doctor’s words as he delivered the news.
His wife was by his side.
“Barney, your test came back, and you have cancer. And, we have to take out your prostate.”
He was only 41 - a year older than the recommended screening age for Black men and those with a family history of some cancers.
Surgery soon followed, and so did another setback.
Seven months after, his doctors noticed an increase in PSA.
Morris underwent radiation and has been almost undetectable for the last 15 years.
Now, he says it’s about the journey of other men, including Black men.
The Prostate Cancer Foundation says 1 in 6 African-American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer.
African-American men are nearly 80% more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than white men, and Black men are more than twice as likely to die from the disease.
The foundation says reasons for this could be a combination of genetic differences, lifestyle, access to medical care, and nutritional habits.
Dr. Kosj Yamoah, MD, Ph.D., is a physician-scientist at Moffit Cancer Center in Tampa.
He says all of these factors matter, taking careful consideration to emphasize food intake.
“A healthy lifestyle is huge. Because what you put in your body is able to create a healthy environment to fight disease,” Dr. Yamoah says.
But both Dr. Yamoah and Morris both say the fight to lower the diseases’ rate amongst black men also requires a cultural shift for many.
“Black men, in particular, do not like talking about their health issues,” Dr. Yamoah says.
FOX 4’s Chief Meteorologist Derek Beasley agrees.
“I’m guilty of that, too. I’m guilty of ‘I’m fine. I’ll be okay. Even when I injure myself’.
I think it’s something that we were taught growing up as black men. We have to just be able to deal with things, and handle it.”
Beasley’s had to handle prostate cancer diagnoses within his own family, leading to a shift in thinking about his future and the future of his son.
He encourages other black men to consider doing the same.
“If you’re kind of on the fence about going to the doctor and getting checked out and feeling like it’s going to be bit invasive. Getting over that hump, you can end up saving your life and your family a lot of heartache,” he says.
That’s a message Morris hopes to spread, too.
He’s now a patient advocate with the Prostate Cancer Foundation. In this role, he spends time in the community while sharing his story and hoping to encourage all men to take health, screening, and treatment options seriously.
“It is not a death sentence. You can have a nice fruitful life. It is not a death sentence, “ Morris says.