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Whispering out loud to save men’s lives

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Posted: Thursday, September 6, 2012 12:08 am

It started off as an internet radio program a couple of years ago. Thanks to sponsorship, WGNU is where The Empowerment Network reaches out to men and their families to educate about prostate cancer, testing, and support after diagnosis.

TEN co-founder Mellve Shahid said the response has been great.

“For so long, the St. Louis community needed a voice to help close the gap of understanding on prostate cancer, other types of cancer, help issues and health disparities that face our community,” Shahid said. “For years the mention of prostate cancer and prostate health was only a whisper in the urban community before our radio show. That whisper has now become a weekly radio message of encouragement to men in our community to "get tested."

Prostate cancer occurs more often in African-American men than in men of other races. According to data from the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute, African-American men are also more likely to be diagnosed at an advanced stage, and are more than twice as likely to die of prostate cancer as white men.

Data on the incidence of prostate cancer by NCI Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) has the annual adjusted rate between 2005-2009 as 236 per 100,000 men among African Americans, compared to whites at 146.9 per 100,000 and  154.8 per 100,000 men per year overall.

Prostate cancer occurs less often in Asian-American (85.4 per 100,000) and Hispanic/Latino men (125.9 per 100,000) than in non-Hispanic whites. The reasons for these racial and ethnic differences are not clear.

On the “Closing the Gap on Prostate Cancer in Our Community” weekly radio program, Shahid brings in guest doctors and educators to break down the barriers of misunderstanding. He describes as those “urban myths that has held the men in our community in fear and in ignorance.”

“Bringing to our radio show great cancer survivor stories, celebrity cancer survivor stories and great caregiver stories to the ears of our listeners has given the families in our community hope that through early detection you can survivor prostate cancer,” Shahid said.

It also targets other health issues, Shahid added, such as eye health, adult daycare; hospice care, caregiving – a variety of interest to the community.

The Empowerment Network’s new radio show airs each Friday at 5:00 PM on WGNU 920 AM, but it’s work one-on-one with men undergoing treatment is every day, 24/7 – from survivor to survivor.

TEN volunteers are known to stay at the hospital while prostate cancer patients are undergoing procedures, praying with them, driving to and from medical appointments, answering the “keeping it real” questions brother-to-brother.

Through a grant from St. Louis Men’s Group against Cancer, TEN purchases items for After Surgery Kits. They include bandages, incontinence guards, petroleum jelly, wound care ointment, rubber gloves, soap and other hygiene products.

When Ernest Reed of St. Louis was diagnosed with prostate cancer a few months ago, he found the support from the men of TEN a powerful resource during his prostate cancer diagnosis and subsequent hospitalization and surgery, saying the TEN meant everything to him.

“They took me in, they shared with me, all of their concerns, all of their experiences and all of the knowledge that they had,” Reed explained. “What they give me is knowledge of what was going to happen. They guided me in the best direction to handle my specific illness and they guided me to the right doctor – got me in early – set up meetings to answer questions that I might have.

“I never had any chance to be afraid, because they were there – I could call someone whenever I wanted.  They had an answer that was truthful and honest.”

Reed said he is doing “absolutely fantastic” and is almost at 100 percent.

A few weeks ago, Reed and his wife Pam were guests on the TEN radio show.

“Now that they have given me so much help and guidance it’s my time to share with people who may have a similar condition, that there is help and support right here in St. Louis – men who are anxious and eager to guide and support and to get out the importance of PSA testing and screening,” Reed said.

PSA testing  is the first line of defense for black men, Reed added.

“I think the biggest concern is to overcome the fear that this disease is degrading to men,” Reed said, “And that it can’t be overcome.”

For more information about The Empowerment Network, call 314-385-0998.

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