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Jim Williams, A Prostate Cancer Survivor and Health Equity Advocate

Regarding prostate cancer advocacy, few have fought longer and harder than Jim Williams. Jim is a Vietnam Veteran from Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, who was faced with his prostate cancer diagnosis in 1991. Jim’s wife, Lois, suggested that he get a checkup. 

Black man posing in tan suit for company headshot

The doctor included a PSA test in the battery of other blood tests, even though the FDA wouldn’t approve PSA tests as a screening tool for prostate cancer until 1994. This inclusion turned out to be a blessing for Jim — the PSA test led him to see a urologist, who performed a biopsy and diagnosed him with prostate cancer. Jim successfully underwent surgery and hormone therapy with the support of his wife and an interdisciplinary care team.

At the time, a cancer diagnosis was seen as a death sentence. Again, at the urging of his wife, Jim joined an Us TOO support group. It was through the group he could talk openly with other men who had also gone through prostate cancer — giving him hope. And so began Jim’s prostate cancer advocacy journey. Besides serving on the Board of Directors for Us Too for nine years, he is now the Board Chair for the Pennsylvania Prostate Cancer Coalition. He works tirelessly to educate men at risk and their families about prostate cancer.

Now cancer-free, Jim credits his excellent doctors, treatment facilities, and his wife. He knows, however, that many do not get the same standard of care that he did, not to mention most men tend to not advocate for their health — half of the men Jim meets haven’t been to the doctor in the past two years! This statistic needs to change. Getting checked for diseases like prostate cancer is like getting an oil change for your car; preventative care preempts catastrophic issues.

But one of the biggest reasons Jim started advocating is that he was often one of the only African American men in the room. For Jim, health equity is of enormous importance, as prostate cancer is “a bigoted disease.” Black men are diagnosed and die from prostate cancer at a much higher rate than white men, and we must bring all segments of our community into this battle against prostate cancer. For those prostate cancer patients and survivors interested in advocating, Jim argues that if we don’t make noise, we don’t get the attention of the decision-makers who can get us what we need. In this case, we have been fighting to reduce the cost barriers to getting screened for prostate cancer. This won’t happen on its own, so we as citizens, we as patients, and we as men must also play a part in this effort.

Recently, Jim joined ZERO and 19 other advocates for a mini-Hill Day, where they met with Congressional staff about H.R. 1176, the PSA Screening for HIM Act. This bipartisan bill would help address health disparities by removing screening costs for men at risk for prostate cancer, such as African American men and those with a family history. To join Jim in this effort send an to email your congressperson!