By Dr. Max Gomez

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There will be almost a quarter of a million prostate cancer diagnoses this year and more than 34,000 patients will die.

Even worse, Black men are more than twice as likely to die from it. But as CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported Monday, it doesn’t have to be that way.

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Tony Hillery was an active, healthy 60-year-old man who founded a series of urban farms for children called Harlem Grows.

Then, Tony noticed his PSA level had been slowly creeping up over the previous few years. He was referred to Dr. Ash Tewari, chairman of urology at Mount Sinai, for a checkup.

“It was indeed swollen. Did the biopsy. Bingo. Tested positive for prostate cancer, and at that point just get it out. Let’s take it out,” Hillary said.

Tony was lucky his cancer was early stage and that Dr. Tewari is one of the most experienced robotic surgeons in the country.

He was also lucky it was early because Black men are twice as likely to develop and die with prostate cancer. Plus, Tony had a family history: his father, grandfather and later his brother.

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Dr. Tewari points out that the large majority of prostate cancers are actually slow growing and unlikely to kill most men.

That’s why he said men need to have a conversation with their doctor when their PSA creeps up to decide appropriate treatment, such as:

  • Nerve sparing total removal,
  • external beam radiation,
  • radioactive seed implants, or
  • active surveillance – keeping a close eye on the prostate, but no intervention yet.

It’s also important to consider other risk factors.

“Having a diabetes, having an obesity, having a metabolic syndrome may have a different response to treatment,” Dr. Tewari said.

Still, the most important factor according to Dr. Tewari is early detection: have a regular PSA blood test.

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It’s especially critical for Black men, who Tewari’s research shows have a genetic predisposition to prostate cancer and should start screening at age 45 or even earlier if they have a family history.

Dr. Max Gomez