Health

Free cancer screening events are taking place at a pair of locations in Louisville’s West End this weekend.

Black Americans face a higher risk of death from many types of cancer, including breast cancer and prostate cancer, compared to other groups, according to the National Cancer Institute. On Saturday, two Louisville medical systems are offering free screenings for both types of cancers in predominantly Black areas of the city in an effort to decrease barriers to care.

Norton Healthcare is providing free prostate cancer screenings at 1702 W. Broadway, in the Russell neighborhood. UofL’s James Graham Brown Cancer Center, along with Kentucky African Americans Against Cancer (KAAAC) and the Kentucky Cancer Program, are offering mammogram screenings at First Gethsemane Baptist Church on Algonquin Parkway.

Prostate Cancer More Fatal For Black Men

Overall, prostate cancer affects 1 out of every 9 men. For Black men, the chances increase to in 7.

Dr. Steven Patton, a family medicine physician with Norton Community Medical Associates, said while no definitive link has been found, a number of factors could play into the higher risk faced by Black men. Those include social determinants of health and lack of access to car, said Patton, who is Black.

“But just men in general, I think, we all tend to put things off, per se,” Patton said. “[We have a] ‘If it’s not broken, don’t fix it mentality’ versus being ahead of it. That kind of puts us in quite a predicament at times, which is why I feel that the prostate cancer screening event is of importance. It gives us a chance to take our health back.”

Patton said the event’s location was selected in an attempt to increase access to care for Black men. He’s pushing men in the area to take advantage of the screening, noting that prostate cancer has no symptoms, especially in early stages.

Prostate cancer is the second most treatable cancer, Patton said, but it becomes more dangerous the longer it goes undetected. Black men have the highest mortality rate from the disease, and are twice as likely to die compared to white men.

“Normally, once you get screened for prostate cancer and you catch it early enough, the chances of death from that are pretty low if they can get to it in time and get correct treatments, biopsies and surgical procedures,” Patton said.

Screenings are recommended starting at age 40 for men who have a parent or sibling with prostate cancer, at 45 for Black men with any family history and at 50 for all men. Blood tests will be the main method used, though digital rectal exams are available.

Norton is opening the event to up to 50 people, and appointments must be made online or by calling 502-629-7777. COVID-19 tests. Flu vaccinations are also available.

“I’m hoping to serve at least one person,” Patton said. “That’s what I want… If we can change one person’s life, if they have access, if this is a service that we can supply to one person, then the whole event is worth it to me.”

LATE BREAST CANCER DETECTION LEADS TO HIGHER DEATH RATES

Black women and white women develop breast cancer at nearly the same rate. But according to the CDC, Black women die from it at a rate 40% higher than white women.

Black women have a higher chance of developing more aggressive forms, like triple negative breast cancer. They are also less likely to detect breast cancer in its early stages.

“When looking at how many African American women are diagnosed, we know that’s less than white women,” said Janikaa Sherrod, a cancer control specialist with KAAAP. “But when you’re looking at the death of Black women compared to white women, it’s more. A lot of it is because of late-stage diagnosis.”

Access to healthcare plays a role in when cancer is detected. Historical inequities faced by Black women have created barriers to such resources, which has led to the heightened risk associated with breast cancer.

“When we’re looking at cancer overall, we have to take into consideration the historical context that race in the United States has definitely been correlated with socioeconomic status and other economic and social conditions, and those are correlated to increased risk and poor outcomes among the African American communities.” Sherrod said. “We have to take into consideration all those factors when we’re looking at why there are higher death rates of cancer in the African American community compared to the white community.”

Sherrod, who is Black, said stationing the mobile mammogram screening bus in different areas of the city helps tear down those barriers by bringing healthcare directly to the community. From 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, the bus will be at First Gethsemane Baptist Church, located at 1159 Algonquin Parkway.

Insurance is another barrier that often prevents adequate care, but Sherrod said funds from the Kentucky Women’s Cancer Screening Program eases that burden for the uninsured by covering the cost of the screening.

“If that screening comes back and they need a follow-up diagnostic, we have funds that cover that as well through the program,” she said. “If a woman is also diagnosed through the van, then those screening funds also cover treatment.”

Appointments can be scheduled by calling (502) 644-8907. Screening is limited to women 40 and older, and who don’t currently have known breast problems.

Correction: All men should begin cancer screenings at age 50. The age was incorrect in a previous version.

John Boyle covers southern Indiana communities and health for WFPL News. He is a Report for America Corps member.