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Prostate Outreach Project Focuses on Education that Benefits the Community


When Curtis Pettaway, M.D., professor in the Department of Urology at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center launched the Prostate Outreach Project (POP) four years ago, creating awareness among African-American men about prostate cancer and providing screenings were top concerns. Today, Pettaway and his staff are focused on measuring the benefit of the education they offer this high-risk group of men and are optimistic about the impact that will have on future generations.

“We wanted to conduct research that benefited the underserved African-American community,” says Pettaway, “We especially wanted to reach those with limited access to the health care system and those who were not aware of their risks. From the beginning of this program we knew that combining education with scientific research would yield great benefits immediately and for years to come.”

All men attending POP screenings are given a questionnaire to establish their baseline knowledge of prostate cancer. In a recent analysis, Pettaway’s research staff looked at results and focused on responses to four key statements:

• A man is more likely to develop prostate cancer if his father had it.
• Men older than age 50 years are more likely to develop prostate cancer.
• Approximately one in 10 men will develop prostate cancer in his lifetime.
• African-American men are at higher risk than whites to develop prostate cancer.

According to their responses, only 39 percent of the men surveyed answered all of these questions correctly and only 45 percent had been screened for prostate cancer before. “As an urologist, these are startling statistics to read,” Pettaway says. “The men answering these questions are predominately African-American with a median age of 54, which places them at significant risk for this disease.”

According to Pettaway, men with more education, a family history of prostate cancer and those who have insurance or who have a physician that they visit regularly were more likely to answer all four questions correctly initially. After the initial survey, POP participants were shown a video called Listen Up II that addresses key risk factors for prostate cancer.

Immediately following the video and screening, participants were surveyed again. In the post-test, 78 percent of the men answered all four questions correctly.

“In the post-test responses, we also see that the level of education, family history, having regular access to a physician and having insurance are no longer factors,” Pettaway says. “Once they’re exposed to the facts, the information sinks in and we hope they relate the facts to their own situation.”

Every participant is notified of his results, and those recommended for follow-up with a physician are offered help if they do not have a physician or insurance.

“It’s great to know that we’re having an immediate impact on someone’s quality of life because they know how to get the help they need,” Pettaway says. Armed with the facts about prostate cancer, Pettaway says these men will make more informed decisions in the future and will have a positive influence on others.

“We want men to make informed decisions about their health,” Pettaway says. “Once men know the facts, including their risk factors, they are more likely to see the value of early detection,” he says. “Men start having a positive influence on other men because they become more aware and begin sharing their knowledge with their brothers, sons and friends,” Pettaway says, “Educating these men will benefit them and cause them to have an impact on future generations.”

POP is the only mobile program in the Greater Houston area providing free comprehensive screening and education for prostate cancer. A comprehensive screening includes a digital rectal exam as well as a blood test for prostate specific antigen. For more information about POP and free prostate cancer screenings, call (713) 563-2752.

Prostate Cancer Risk Factors
• Age – Age is the most influential risk factor. Men 50 or older are at the greatest risk, and African-American men are recommended to begin screening at 45.
• Family history – If a man’s father or brother has had the disease, he also has an increased risk.
• Race – African-American men have the highest occurrence of this disease.
• Diet – Some research suggests that a diet high in animal fat may increase the risk of prostate cancer.


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