Black men develop prostate cancer 60% more often than white men. In addition, they have a higher chance of dying from it. Because of this heightened risk, Black men are encouraged to start prostate cancer screening early with yearly PSA tests and physical exams at age 40, and even earlier if they have a strong family history of prostate cancer exists.
This is a lesson that retired four-star United States Army general, 65th United States Secretary of State, and former National Security Advisor, Commander of the U.S. Army Forces Command, Colin Powell, knew very well.
“When I was diagnosed with prostate cancer at 66, I wasn’t terribly surprised or shocked,” former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Powell said. “For the five years before that, I had been going for very regular checkups and my PSA was always high. It floated up and down. PSA alone doesn’t indicate cancer, it just says something is going on.”
Thankfully, Powell had the knowledge he needed to deal with this challenge, in addition to the understanding that cancer doesn’t care about reputation. In fact, Powell had been tracking and preparing for the diagnosis for several years. He was so diligent about watching for potential issues with his prostate that he had already gone through two biopsies before the third turned up positive for cancer.
“At that point, I knew sooner or later that something would show up,” he says. “And because I’m black, I have a higher propensity for prostate cancer than white folks do.”
Powell’s proactive approach to diagnosis then turned to a treatment strategy after consulting with his longtime doctor and bringing in a radiologist.
“I was just at the age where I decided, ‘I don’t want to fool with this, I don’t want to think about it’ and so I decided to go for the radical prostatectomy [removal of the prostate gland], as opposed to the radiation treatment,” he says. “As Secretary of State, I didn’t want to face the prospect of regular radiation therapy, as opposed to doing it all at once and taking care of it.”
Due to his high profile, Powell didn’t make his surgery public until the actual morning of the procedure. He was back at the State Department less than a week after the surgery, and with the support of his wife, children and office assistants, jumped right back into his daily routine. It was his family beside him that kept him going. His wife, Alma helping in making his decision to move forward with the procedure.
In addition to being proactive and doing the right thing when it comes to his prostate, Powell also does it with politics. Powell, a republican, endorsed President Barack Obama twice and came out in favor of many of Obama’s policies. Even though he was highly criticized by his republican friends.
Powell also criticized anti-immigrant rhetoric, calling himself “a child of immigrant parents” and America “an immigrant nation.”
“We have been built on the backs of immigrants and we’ve always had difficulty with immigration policy throughout our history” Powell said, calling out Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump by name.
“If I were around Mr. Trump — Donald — who I know very well, I would say, ‘You know, Donald, let’s see what happens. Let’s tell all the immigrants working at Trump Hotel to stay home tomorrow.’ See what happens. Are you kidding me? … Look who’s serving you. Guess who’s cooking in the back,” Powell said. “Next time you walk through Dulles or Reagan, look who’s manning the counter. Look who’s cleaning things up. These are first generation American immigrants, who will raise children, who will grow up to higher things.”
While the choice to remove his prostate was something others facing treatments might not opt for today,…