Cancer is a leading cause of death in America’s jails and prisons, yet those afflicted frequently refuse to get examined or acknowledge their illness, according to data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics cited in a Prison Journalism Project article.
From 2001 to 2019, cancer accounted for 27.5% of all prison deaths, said the May 23, 2023 story. Prostate cancer among men is one of the leading types of cancer, equal to the number of cases and deaths by breast cancer among women, according to a report by the National Cancer Institute cited in the article.
The chance of a diagnosis for prostate cancer climbs for men over 50 years of age, but many men refuse to accept their problem because of fear and reservations.
“There is a fear of the exam itself and finding out you may have cancer,” said Al Burgess, a resident of the Everglades Correctional Institution. The examination typically requires a gloved, digital rectal examination.
“You can run from the examinations only to discover the cancer years down the line,” Burgess said.
Some men worry that “something is wrong with them as a man” if they receive a prostate cancer diagnosis, Burgess commented.
Burgess has self-tested for prostate cancer since age 32. He has worried about the disease since a visit to his grandfather at age 19. His grandfather had large tubes protruding from his groin — tubes to drain his urine and control prostate enlargement, Torres reported.
A Yale Cancer Center study found that anyone diagnosed while incarcerated or recently released from prison has a higher risk of dying from cancer than for persons never incarcerated.
“What are we running from? The disease? Fear of the unknown?” Burgess asked. “If you detect it early, the treatment isn’t that severe. … We have to establish a pattern of dialogue to leave a better legacy for the generation coming up.”
An Everglades health administrator shared her concern stating, “We don’t see [these patients] until it’s too late. …Why won’t the men speak up and notify medical staff?”
The author of the article, Gervasio Torres Jr., noted that men openly talk about alcohol addiction or drug dependency in support groups but not about prostate concerns.
“Fear prevented my dad from having an honest conversation with his provider and his family about his health. Don’t let it stop you,” he wrote.