Prostate cancer support group helps men cope
By KATIE McCARTHY
Twenty years ago, when Jack Osteen was first diagnosed with prostate cancer, there weren't many resources for men to talk about the issue or discuss different kinds of treatment.
Which is why Osteen is eager to share information about the Man to Man prostate cancer support group that meets monthly at the John B. Amos Cancer Center. For an hour, the men discuss the treatments they've undergone and how it made them feel or they'll listen to a guest speaker share information about new treatments or advances in medicine concerning prostate cancer.
When he was first diagnosed, Osteen said he felt alone.
"I had nobody to talk to. I searched and looked for and didn't have anybody," Osteen said. "I was scared, didn't know what to do and I took the only choice I had at the time."
He underwent surgery to remove the cancer, but it had already spread to his lymph nodes. Five years later the cancer was back and after being told he had five years to live, Osteen sought out different kinds of treatment. He eventually participated in an experimental drug treatment prototype which involved six months of chemotherapy and hormone treatment.
Now 15 years later, he recently found out the cancer has returned and he has started looking into what his options are this time.
Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death among American men, according to the American Cancer Society, second only to lung cancer.
Osteen said the support group gives men a safe place to discuss their treatments, learn from each other and find support among those who have been through a similar situation.
"You'd be surprised. Men don't usually talk, but you get in that group and they'll tell you what it's like," said Osteen. "It's just a good group of men. A lot of camaraderie once we get there."
The group also hosts a table at the annual health fair held at the Columbus Civic Center, where a doctor also gives his time to check men for prostate cancer. As with most cancers, early detection is the key to survival, thus an important aspect of the support group's mission.
Screenings for prostate cancer include a blood test to check for prostate-specific antigens (PSA) and a digital rectal exam (DRE).
According to the American Cancer Society, the average man should be tested at age 50. Men with a high risk of developing prostate cancer, which includes African-American men and men with a first-degree relative who has been diagnosed, should be tested at 45; men with multiple first-degree relatives who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer should be tested at age 40.
These tests are provided free annually at the health fair, but Osteen said a man's physician will probably bring it up to them as well.
The Man to Man prostate cancer support group meets from 6-7 p.m. on the third Tuesday of the month at the John B. Amos Cancer Center. For more information, contact the American Cancer Society at 800-227-2345.