MONTEGO BAY, St James — Approximately 500 men living in the western region turned up at the St James Parish Church on Friday's final day of Prostate Cancer Awareness Month to take advantage of free screening and health talks courtesy of the Jamaica Cancer Society (JCS).
The turnout, JCS's Acting Executive Director Michael Lesley said, was the perfect way to end the month of activities which were held under the theme: 'Men 40 years and older don't hesitate, get your health in check — do your prostate tests!'
Through its partnership with the Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH) and the Western Regional Health Authority (WRHA), Lesley said the JCS on Friday provided both the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test and digital rectal examination (DRE). This was made possible through a $2.5-million donation by Guardian Life.
"At the cancer society our screening guideline is that we do a PSA test and the second phase, the DRE, is done by a urologist. We are doing both tests because we don't think a prostate screening is complete unless you do both tests," Lesley explained.
Though he was unable to ascertain when the test results will be made available to the men, Lesley said the JCS will be working closely with the regional health team to provide support.
"I cannot quote the time it will take, but normally the blood tests would be ready within a week. Our role at the cancer society is for screening, but we are not saying that after you have been screened that is the end of it. We will refer them to the appropriate doctors in the different regions," he said.
Dr Marcia Johnson Campbell, WRHA's noncommunicable disease regional coordinator, told the Jamaica Observer that men, along with their supportive partners, arrived "as early as 5:30 am" to participate in the day of activities.
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Pleased by this uptake of prostate cancer screening, Dr Johnson Campbell called on other women to play a role in encouraging men to get screened for this deadly disease.
"We also seek to say to our women, 'Please encourage the men 40 years and older to come and get the test done.' If it is that we identify something then we will bring them in for counseling, possible biopsy, and other treatment as necessary," she said.
The noncommunicable disease regional coordinator said, "One of our challenges is that men have poor health-seeking behaviour and so we don't always get them to come into our space to be able to do the examination. There is also a fear of the digital rectal examination and the general fear of knowing about prostate cancer."
For Hanover man Dennis Poyser, missing out on Friday's day of activities was not an option. The man told the Sunday Observer that he was happy to travel across the border to St James for what became his third prostate cancer screening.
"It was time for a third check-up, plus it was free, so I just came to get it done," said Poyser.
Acknowledging the scepticism behind some men choosing to shy away from getting checked for prostate cancer, Poyser said he, too, experienced similar emotions. However, since his first screening test the man has been encouraging his colleagues to do the same.
"The first time mi do it mi did fraid too, so I understand. But dem good man…there is nothing to be afraid of. If mi did come earlier, mi go fi some more man carry come ya because it is like nothing," he told the Sunday Observer.
Similarly, St James taxi operators Lyndol Bowen and Glenford Allen were eager to know their status. According to Bowen, the men, along with their other colleagues, have been counting down the days to take advantage of the opportunity.
"My colleague said he was coming and about five of us decided to come as well. He wanted the company and it is good to know your status," the 53-year-old man said.
It was Allen's wife who encouraged him to finally get screened for prostate cancer.
"It was my first time and, to be honest, mi never really want to do it. But my wife always encourages me to go get my prostate checked, so I just listened to her," the 66-year-old Allen told the Sunday Observer.