Since the death of her Uncle Phil from prostate cancer 10 years ago, Carlise Guy has made it her life’s mission to help raise awareness of the risk factors of this disease and to help other men to make an informed plan for screening. She saw a rare opportunity to do this as her father and Phil’s brother, Buddy Guy, is a legendary blues guitarist whose connections run deep in the blues community. Since the disease affects a large number of African American men, the blues community offered a unique approach in the delivery of a message that is so important to her. Carlise says, “I saw what my uncle went through and how poor his quality of life was toward the end. No one should go through that. That’s why it’s now my mission to help others."
Over the past three years, Carlise has merged her own passion for blues with the loving memory of her Uncle Phil and channeled it into her focus of helping men win the fight against prostate cancer. To help her achieve her goal, she’s joined forces with PCa Blue, a prostate cancer awareness organization. “Together we’re working to help raise awareness with an aim to conquer prostate cancer,” says Carlise.
According to PCa Blue’s President and CEO, Ivy Ahmed, “In working with Carlise and her father, I envision a world where no one loses a brother, father, uncle, friend, boss, or loved one to a disease that has the best chance of successful treatment when found at an early stage. Along with Buddy Guy, who himself is the national spokesperson for the organization, PCa Blue is sharing valuable and straightforward information to empower men to make informed decisions about this disease by connecting the dots between prostate cancer and blues music.”
“Prostate cancer impacts 1 in 9 men and 1 in 6 African American men develops prostate cancer,” says Ivy. “Yet, it’s something that no one talks about it. The more we talk about it, the more men will be empowered to learn about their (prostate cancer) risk and make an informed plan for screening. And for those who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, we at PCa Blue will help them on this journey. No one is alone.”
“One of the biggest issues is the fear factor,” says Carlise. “Some men are too afraid to even talk about getting screened. They’re embarrassed or ashamed about the idea of a digital rectal exam, one of the screening methods used for prostate cancer. From what I know from the men in my life, the test feels like a violation of their manhood. I tell my brothers and my son, and any other men I meet, ‘You’re less of a man if you don’t get screened.’” Carlise also reframes the issue for men by reminding them, “You’re not just doing this for you. You’re doing it for us. We love you and need you around, so please take care of yourself.”
While there is some debate within the medical community about when to start prostate screening, Ivy Ahmed says that, “It’s better to be safe than sorry. Men should know and understand their personal risk for prostate cancer. We encourage every man to have a conversation with his healthcare provider to make the plan that’s best for him. Every man is at risk for prostate cancer, but every man’s risk for prostate cancer is unique to the individual.” The American Cancer Society recommends the following schedule for early detection:
- Age 50 for men who are at average risk of prostate cancer and are expected to live at least 10 more years.
- Age 45 for men at high risk of developing prostate cancer. This includes African Americans and men who have a first-degree relative (father, brother, or son) diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age (younger than age 65).
- Age 40 for men at even higher risk (those with more than one first-degree relative who had prostate cancer at an early age).
Keep in mind, that medical organizations may have different recommendations regarding screening for prostate cancer. All organizations agree, however, that the most important aspect of screening is to have a conversation with your healthcare provider about the benefits and risks of screening tests.
Carlise suggests that “The sooner you talk about it with your loved ones, the better. If our men grow up with the idea that preventive healthcare including prostate cancer screening is a regular part of the process, we can make it less frightening and more normal for them. My son is 34 and we started talking about it when my uncle passed away 10 years ago. He knows what to expect and why early detection is so important.”
Carlise hopes that sharing her story and her Uncle Phil’s experience will help motivate more men to take this condition seriously. “When my uncle was diagnosed with prostate cancer, he hid it from all of us. I don’t know if it was a money issue or if it was his pride that kept him from telling us and getting the right treatment, but we didn’t find out until 2 months before he passed away. And by then it was too late. He was alone in it for so long and it doesn’t have to be that way. As much as it hurts to talk about my Uncle Phil, each time I’m faced with having to speak about it, it encourages me all the more to want to help.”
What you can do
Stay a step ahead of prostate cancer by:
- Taking care of your health. If you are afraid of unfamiliar exams or fearful of finding out something is wrong, try to think about the importance of having a healthy lifestyle and getting regular checkups.
- Knowing your risk. There is a lot of discussion and even some controversy about screening and testing. What is most important is that you learn your personal risk. Talk with your healthcare provider about when to start prostate cancer screening.
- Educating yourself. Knowledge is an important defense against prostate cancer. Learning about symptoms and treatment options can help you make informed decisions about your care. Learn more here.
If you are a woman, encourage those you love—husband, father, brother, and others—to start having conversations with their doctor about prostate health.
- 1. American Cancer Society. Key Statistics for Prostate Cancer. Accessed March 12, 2018.
- 2. DeSantis CE, Siegel RL, Sauer AG, et al. Cancer statistics for African Americans, 2016: progress and opportunities in reducing racial disparities. CA Cancer J Clin. 2016;66:290-308.
- 3. American Cancer Society. American Cancer Society Recommendations for Prostate Cancer Early Detection. Accessed March 21, 2018.