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November 2005 Issue

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Residents Hit the Streets to Detect Cancer

Published November 2005

When the Rev. Donald Jordan found out he had prostate cancer, he knew that he wasn't alone.

His two brothers already suffered from the disease, but Jordan wondered how many other people--especially those who can't afford health care--are suffering from prostate cancer but don't know it.

Jordan's oncologist, Bill Barrett, MD, of UC's Division of Radiation Oncology, expressed similar concerns.

Studies have shown that people without health care access tend to have lower survival rates after being diagnosed with prostate cancer, compared with those who have access.

This, some argue, is because these individuals are diagnosed late, when the disease has already progressed to a more advanced stage.

Jordan and Dr. Barrett knew that something needed to be done.

"Dr. Barrett and I saw the need to have prostate cancer screenings in poor, urban areas where people can get some help," Jordan says. "Most of these people can't afford heath care, and therefore won't get tested. However, with Dr. Barrett's lead we were able to do something."

The result was a free prostate screening program, developed by Dr. Barrett and run by resident physicians. Each Saturday throughout the year, five UC radiation oncology residents rotate duty at the clinics, from noon to 5 p.m., in the Jordan Crossing shopping mall in Bond Hill.

Jordan, the former pastor of Allen Temple African Methodist Episcopal Church, which owns the shopping mall, felt so strongly about the program that he persuaded the church's foundation to offer free store space to conduct the clinics.

Jordan even asked the church to schedule the screening appointments.

Soon, other sponsors, such as Western-Southern Life, American Financial Group and the American Cancer Society of Hamilton County, followed Allen Temple's lead by underwriting the equipment and supplies needed to hold the clinics.

To date, more than 400 men have been screened and 5 percent have had abnormal test results, requiring further follow up.

"By taking our services directly to the community, we're able to diagnose prostate cancer earlier and connect people to the comprehensive care that's critical to a full recovery," says Dr. Barrett.

The program has grown dramatically since Dr. Barrett and Jordan's initial conversation nearly two years ago. With the help of a mobile screening van, similar to a motor home, residents now host additional clinics two Saturdays of every month at the Avondale Town Center and in the Walnut Hills Kroger parking lot near Peebles Corner. They also hold free screenings at various health and wellness events throughout the year in Greater Cincinnati.

"We have two vans that we used for mammography and cancer education and screening for special events," says Reza Shirazi, MD, chief resident in UC's Department of Radiation Oncology, "but they weren't being used most of the time, so we asked how we could benefit from them.

"We now use the vans to conduct screenings at places where we know there will be a huge turnout. Many people approach the van to ask us what we are doing, so we use the opportunity to educate them. It's been a very positive experience."

r. Shirazi says the No. 1 reason people come to the clinics is that a family member "made them." He recalls the time when a man in his late 30s with an early family history of prostate cancer was brought to the Avondale Town Center screening clinic by his mother. The man was angry and apprehensive, but he tested positive--an unlikely result at his age.

"This man would not have been seen otherwise," says Dr. Shirazi. "He would not have gone to any doctor, but because he got screened we were able to offer some treatment recommendations."

Other people, says Dr. Shirazi, are referred to the program by their physicians largely because the testing is free and many of them don't have health insurance. Tests can run anywhere from $50 to $60 for blood work alone.

Residents conduct comprehensive prostate screening exams, which include a medical history questionnaire, consultation, post-exam recommendation, digital rectal exam and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test conducted by an on-site phlebotomist.

Dr. Shirazi says that because the program has been so well received, the team may expand the screening clinics to include other diseases.

"We could possibly check for diabetes or colon cancer at the same time and help even more people," he says.

The American Cancer Society reports that prostate cancer will result in more than 30,000 deaths in the United States in 2005, making it the second leading cause of cancer-related mortality among men. The most at-risk population for prostate cancer are African-American men over age 45 with a family history of the disease.

Early detection, Dr. Shirazi emphasizes, increases the patient's chances of survival. He suggests that all men begin annual PSA blood tests between the ages of 45 and 50. To schedule a free screening appointment, call (513) 584-8216.

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