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By Virginia ‘Ginya’ Carnahan, APR, CPRC
Dattoli Cancer Center & Brachytherapy Research Institute

ALL IN THE FAMILYThere is no better time than the year-end holidays to acknowledge our families. Many of us feel some traditional pull to “get together,” starting when the season changes. Whether it is Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, New Year’s or some other special day, the urge to celebrate with family is strong as the year winds down. I believe it does the heart and soul good to reunite with these special people.

One of the first real challenges for a married couple is deciding how to choose which side of the family to see during the holidays. I remember my first Thanksgiving as a married woman (all of 19 years old) and the anxiety I felt being with a different family, in a different part of the country for the first time in my life. A roasted turkey was about the only thing on the Thanksgiving table I recognized. Everything was strange to me, especially the people! I will never forget my shock (and intense dislike) of finding oysters in the turkey stuffing!

In my family, the stuffing was always provided by my Aunt Virginia who lovingly made it with home-
made cornbread and plenty of celery and onions and savory seasonings. To me it was always the best part of the meal and there was plenty for the 12 or so hungry people (family and some otherwise lonely guests) gathered at our table.

Special recipes and memories are just two of the things that unite families. Sometimes it is the recessive gene that makes men’s beards grow in red when their hair is clearly brown. Some families claim a cleft in the chin, and some produce children with such adorable dimples. Then there are freckles! Once I had an older, perfect stranger stop me on the street and gaze at my face. He smiled when he left me with this thought: A face without freckles is like a sky without stars!

These family “traits” are the visible ones. The ones that we cannot see are many and some can be quite dangerous! As wonderfully complex as the human being is, through generations some mutations or anomalies in the genes have produced health issues.

For instance, in the early 1900’s, the Russian Romanov family was plagued with an inherited blood clotting disorder called hemophilia-B. For many years it was known as “royal’s disease”, and it was a terrible, painful and fatal condition to bear.

Sickle Cell Anemia is another inherited blood disease generally found in African Americans. Cystic Fibrosis, Albinism, Neurofibromatosis (also known as “Elephant Man’s Disease), Turner’s Syndrome and hundreds of other syndromes and conditions are proven to be hereditary. Interestingly, Tay-Sachs disease is generally found in three diverse groups of people: Ashkenazi Jews, French Canadians and Louisiana Cajuns.

Modern genetic screening has helped counsel parents who have family histories of such conditions, allowing them the make the decision whether to have children at high risk, or not.

One potentially inherited disease that I am concerned about is Prostate Cancer. This is the most common cancer in men, and annual cases outpace the numbers of breast cancer cases. There is far less public attention focused on Prostate Cancer than there is on Breast Cancer. I believe that is because men are just way more reluctant to talk about their personal health issues. Period!

The root cause of Prostate Cancer is not one single factor. The disease is very complicated and varies greatly from one man to another. We do know, however, that the “risk” of developing prostate cancer is greatly increased if there is a family history of it.

The purpose of this article is to emphasize that men who have been diagnosed with Prostate Cancer have an obligation to share this part of their personal medical history with their brothers and sons. This could be the most important and valuable bit of “family history” to be passed along.

While it is encouraged for all men age 50 or so to have a prostate cancer screening exam, it is most important for those offspring of men who have been previously diagnosed with the disease. The two-part screening exam is simple – one small tube of blood to be examined under a microscope for the presence of Prostatic Specific Antigen (PSA), and a brief physical exam called a digital rectal exam (DRE). This screening will set a baseline for comparison to future exams.

This annual exam is as important to men as the annual mammogram or PAP test is to women. Unfortunately, a great proportion of men in our society do not have annual medical exams, and if they do the Prostate Cancer Screening is often overlooked by busy family practitioners. Men need to be empowered and reminded to ask their doctor for the two screening tests!

There are organizations that offer FREE Prostate Cancer screenings to assist these men in their diligence to have an annual exam. One is the Dattoli Cancer Foundation, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization registered in the State of Florida.

A FREE Prostate Cancer screening event is scheduled for Saturday, January 27, 2018 at the North Sarasota Library, 2801 Newtown Blvd, from 10 am until 2 pm. This event is cosponsored by Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Alumni Association.

There are no appointments – just show up! No need to fast before the test. Just show up! Results will be reported to participants by mail. Just show up!

This is a great way to start the New Year by doing something that can impact your health for years to come. Like with all cancers, if Prostate Cancer is found early (by annual screening exams) there is an excellent chance to defeat the cancer and preserve quality of life for the future.

NOTE: It is also very important for men who do not have a family history of Prostate Cancer to have annual screening tests. Many cases of Prostate Cancer are the first to occur in a family – be safe, get screened!

1-877-DATTOLI |

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