|But he was 56 at the time of his first test, which revealed his
own case of prostate cancer. Now, the 63-year-old Tampa man is in
remission and dedicates his days to teaching others about the disease
that kills 30,200 Americans every year.
Many men avoid the testing out of ignorance, fear or denial that
prostate cancer might affect them. Samuels said he hopes some of them
will be reached through a national educational campaign that kicks off
today and Friday in Orlando with free prostate screenings.
"Men are sometimes hesitant to deal with health issues --
especially when it affects them below the belt and above the knees,"
said Samuels, who runs the Florida Prostate Cancer Network. "But you
can't be that way. The key is education and early detection."
The free checkups are being organized by the National Prostate
Cancer Coalition, which holds its "Do It for Dad" awareness campaign
every June to coincide with Father's Day. No appointments are needed.
The testing takes place 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days from a mobile
medical unit in the parking lot of the Wyndam Palace Resort in
Local doctors have volunteered to do the tests, which include a
physical exam and blood test to check for a protein in the blood
called prostate specific antigen, or PSA. High levels of PSA can be a
sign of prostate cancer, although other things also can cause an
About 189,000 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed in the
United States this year, according to the American Cancer Society. It
is the second most deadly form of cancer in men, behind lung cancer.
Many men such as Samuels have no reason to suspect they're ill.
Others will not connect the warning signs, including interrupted
urination and lower back pain, with prostate problems.
"Prostate cancer is a silent killer," said Dr. Richard Atkins,
president of the National Prostate Cancer Coalition, which is based in
Washington, D.C. "By the time it shows symptoms, it's often an
advanced disease. When detected early, it can be treated successfully
and lives can be saved."
Doctors recommend annual tests for all men 50 and older.
Because the disease is more common among black men, they are
advised to begin annual testing at 40, said Dr. George Ellis, an
Orlando urologist and treasurer for the Orange County Medical Society.
Age 40 is also the starting time for any man who has a close family
member with prostate cancer, including his father, an uncle or a
During the physical examination conducted by inserting a gloved
finger into the rectum, the doctor inspects for hard spots,
enlargement or asymmetry to the walnut-sized organ. A combination of
the exam and PSA test can determine whether more testing is needed,
said Ellis, who is volunteering for the event.
"If they need more attention, that could mean another blood test, a
prostate ultrasound or a biopsy," he said.
If found early when it has not spread beyond the prostate, the cure
rate for prostate cancer is 100 percent, said Dr. David Robinson, a
Florida Hospital medical oncologist. As with all cancers, it is more
difficult to treat the disease in advanced stages.
"If the cancer is not localized, the survival rate drops off
significantly," Robinson said.
"If you consider that 189,000 new cases [were found] in this year
alone, prostate cancer is a very real threat that men should be aware