Welcome to Prostate Cancer: Uncensored, a podcast produced by ZERO: The End of Prostate Cancer. This episode is about health equity and ZERO’s Black Men’s Prostate Cancer Initiative Support Groups. Our hosts for this episode are Dr. Reggie Tucker-Seeley, ZERO’s Vice President of Health Equity, and Kris Bennet, ZERO’s Director of Health Equity, Community Organizing, & Engagement. Special guests for this episode are Hakim Asadi and Marcus Jones.
Prostate Cancer: Uncensored podcast unfiltered discussions with researchers, caregivers, patients, and medical professionals about prostate cancer. Listen online, or subscribe and download on your favorite podcasting platform; episodes are available for listening on Apple Podcasts, Anchor.fm, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, TuneIn, PlayerFM, Pocket Casts, Spotify, PodBean, RadioPublic, and more.
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Dr. Reggie Tucker Seeley:
Welcome to Prostate Cancer Uncensored, a podcast produced by ZERO – The End of Prostate Cancer. I’m Dr. Reggie Tucker-Seeley, ZERO’s Vice President of Health Equity.
I’m Kris Bennett, ZERO’s Director of Health Equity, Community Organizing & Engagement. As an ex-professional basketball player myself, I’m really excited about today’s guest, NBA All-Star, Grant Hill.
As many of you know, Grant Hill is a retired Detroit Pistons and Duke University basketball player and part owner of the Atlanta Hawks. He is also a passionate advocate for raising awareness about prostate cancer among Black men. Welcome to Prostate Cancer Uncensored, Grant.
Hello guys. Thanks for having me.
First, we wanted to take a second just to thank you again for your advocacy around raising awareness around prostate cancer generally and also your efforts to highlight the disproportion that impact it has on Black families. This is such important work as we all know. Would you mind telling us a little about how you raised awareness and why you got into this?
Yes, Kris. Particularly Black men, I think we all are aware and at least have someone that we know could be a family member, a friend, someone you work with, a colleague who has been impacted by prostate cancer. For me though personally there really was nobody in my immediate family. It really started with and you mentioned earlier the Atlanta Hawks. We started four or five years ago a prostate awareness month initiative in our marketplace in Atlanta. There’s obviously a strong African-American presence and part of our community efforts to really raise the awareness with African-American men.
I was a part of that and that certainly got me aware of the disparities in greater detail but then to go to a step further and to partner with Dendreon Pharmaceuticals and to learn about those disparities and how disproportionate it is and how it just impacts our community. It was incredible. I knew at that point as an athlete and you would know this, you take ownership for not just your career but your livelihood and your health and really getting out there and encouraging all people most importantly African-American men to get proactive, get off the sidelines and learn more about this and learn how it can be treated. Then also in a lot of cases avoided it if there’s early screening for it.
I know that’s a long answer to your question but I think that hearing about these disparities along racial lines, I knew I had to do something and to get involved and get off the sideline and get into the game.
It’s great that you heard about the disparity and that motivated you to get more involved in and to become a vocal advocate for health equity in prostate cancer. We at ZERO define health equity as everyone having a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat and survive prostate cancer. Why is prostate cancer an important cause to you personally?
I think we talk about and not to be controversial here but we talk about Black Lives Matter and to me, there’s many interpretations of what that is and what that means but I think as someone who obviously cares about our community and certainly, there’s a laundry list of things that are concerning but this is alarming when you find out that Black men are twice as likely to be diagnosed with two and a half times more likely to die from prostate cancer than Caucasian men.
When you find out that I think one in seven African-American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. Like I said, personally, didn’t have this I don’t have a family member but if you care you want to see other people take the necessary steps. We can change those numbers and bring those numbers down and really impact our community and that’s a way to do it. I feel like I’m a historically been a relatively informed person until I really had a chance to dive in deep. I was unaware of just this impact and so the numbers, the statistics, some of which we’ve shared already once you see that, once you are aware of that then you’re like, “Okay, what can we do? How can we change that?”
Part of it is talking about, bringing the awareness and providing the same education, information, resources to our community that yes, this is not something that’s just happens to Black men and we just got to accept it. We can figure out how to at least bring those numbers down and try to beat this. It’s like a game. As an athlete, you don’t go into a game unprepared but a lot of us in our community, we go into this fight against prostate cancer unprepared. Just given a game plan, a playbook, giving the tools necessary to combat this is something that was appealing. Something that may be want to say, “Okay, how can I be a part of this? How can I change this narrative? How can I change this?”
Long story short, that’s how and why I’m here now with you guys.
Awesome. I mean a lot of men may be apprehensive or even nervous about being screened for prostate cancer. What is your message to any man right now that’s hesitant about being screened for prostate cancer?
Well, we got to get over ourselves. I do think not just in terms of the screening for prostate cancer I just think Black men, in general, don’t like to go to the doctor and there may be a lot of reasons for that. There may be a lack of trust. Who knows what that is but I do think in our community, we tend to only go when there’s something wrong and sometimes we won’t even go when there’s something wrong and so we have to change that and we have to go and get screened. There’s other options for screening.
Obviously, I think the one that I think that has a lot of people fearful is you know look this is your life and this is something that can be avoided or at least treated if caught early. That’s what we have to get out there. Get over your cells, you can get blood work now. I mean that’s an option that wasn’t there maybe 30 years ago but once again, it falls into that bucket of educating and informing and just making people aware of these numbers, of what prostate cancer is, how it can be treated but also if detected early then it’s a situation where it doesn’t have to be fatal.
Yes. One of the things that we talk about a lot here at ZERO is that in addition to educating men we also have to educate our healthcare delivery system. One thing that you mentioned is that African-American men, we may not necessarily want to go to the doctor or we don’t go to the doctor but historically the healthcare delivery system hasn’t necessarily been a trustworthy partner to us. I think it’s going to be important that in addition to educating Black men around going to the doctor, we also have to educate our healthcare delivery system to be better partners to us.
One of the things that you mentioned earlier were those staggering statistics that really engaged you in this process and I can tell you from my perspective as well. We’re seeing those numbers really motivated me to want to do this role as well. You mentioned Black men are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer where over twice as likely to die from the disease in comparison to White men. What do these disparities mean to you and why is it so important to address them now?
Well, first of all, I think it is critical that industries and healthcare are proactive particularly when it comes to preventative and equitable care for communities of color. I mean these numbers are staggering and we also I think sometimes as Black men don’t understand the impact it has on others, on our loved ones, on family members, friends and so I like to say it’s important for us to be selfish so we can be selfless and selfish in the sense of taking care of yourself. Then also so you can do it for yourself but also for those that are near and dear to you.
To me, this is something that if we all dive in, we all chip in, we all do our part and we’re proactive, we can reduce those numbers and we should do that. As I said Black Lives Matter has been a catchphrase that’s been used and certainly been a topic of conversation. This matters and this is important. To your point though about the industry, I think part of it I think of like mad mothers against drunk driving. Mothers getting to a point where they were so upset, so frustrated, impacted by various deaths associated with drunk driving, that they got engaged, they got involved and they created a movement and they changed laws.
Until we demand certain things and we demand this from the healthcare industry then we’re going to continue to get treated as such. Before we can do that, we have to become aware and we have to understand and there has to be a demand for change. We’re in the infancy stages of that in a lot of ways but those numbers, they have to change and that’s what compelled me to get off the sideline and get in the game.
Agreed. Those disparities, they have to become unacceptable to us. We have to say they’re intolerable.
Right. I think we’ve done that as it relates to other issues pertaining to Black America. This is something where we’re doing to ourselves and it’s one thing you can get into other themes and we’re not necessarily going to do that today. We’re worried about what others are doing to us or unfairness or things of that nature. We have to be proactive when it comes to our health and just be disciplined and get over our fears, our phobias, whatever we think is taboo, that to me is about caring for the community, caring for ourselves.
Speaking of being disciplined, Grant, as an athlete, you know better than anybody else. We’re conditioned to really take care of our bodies. From the nutritional piece to resting to the daily grind in the gym, a conversation that’s actually come up pretty recently now that I’ve been in this role with a couple of coaches of mine Black men that all played was about how surprised they were when they were diagnosed with prostate cancer.
One of my coaches actually felt like he had done everything right in his entire life. Ate well, slept, didn’t really go out. None of that was taking care of his body and then his body just betrayed him. That’s how he felt when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Is that something that you’ve experienced before? How would you encourage other athletes and other coaches to really begin to have the conversation about prostate cancer and even the importance of just going in for prostate cancer screening?
That example that you use was really fascinating and certainly as an athlete, I think you’re very in tune with your body and certainly sounds like this particular gentleman you’re referring to did everything right. Took care of himself, ate well, looked good, felt good. Was very disciplined about all those things. Sometimes someone who’s in that category can be susceptible because you’re so in tune that you feel okay I can tell when something’s wrong. With this, you don’t necessarily feel it and by the time you feel it, it could be too late in some cases.
Part of eating right, getting your rest working out, recovery, all of these things that I think someone who fancies themselves as an athlete someone who takes care of themselves, someone who’s going to have a long life. You have to add to that going to get screened. Just going to the doctor, in general, but going to get screened. That should be part of your regimen. It’s not every day, it’s not every month once a year is perfect. That’s got to be part of the regimen of taking care of yourself.
Sometimes when you are in good shape and you can get a little bit, I don’t want to say, you can be a little naive or delusional or maybe even arrogant to think that I don’t need to go see the doctor because I’m doing everything I’m supposed to be doing. Certainly, that’s good and that’s a great thing and encourage anyone to do that but you have to do more. You’re willing to be that disciplined about your body then you can throw in an annual screening into the equation as well.
I love that. As someone that has a huge platform, especially in the basketball world and really just the Black community. I can’t tell you how many times your name has come up in conversation at the barbershop. How do you want your message to reach and resonate Black men who look up to you and view you as a trusted person? You mentioned trusted partners and where do you see or hope that your advocacy can go?
I think to stay on the barbershop a lot of times barbershop there’s a lot of things that are discussed and one of which is sports. I think a lot of folks who are in the barbershops as patrons may at some point in their lives participate in sports and a lot of them follow sports and are fans. I think we all understand that you don’t go into a game unless you’re prepared. An athlete doesn’t go in unless they’re in shape, there’s a scouting report. They understand the other team’s tendencies. You go in with giving yourself every opportunity as an athlete, as a team, and as a fan, you would hope your favorite team would give themselves every opportunity to be successful.
The same thing applies here. We have every opportunity here to not only extend your life but have a healthy productive life and to deal with prostate cancer which is a real issue in our community. It’s that athletic mindset. It’s the same thing. You don’t have to necessarily have been an athlete to have that but to be prepared to have a playbook, to have a game plan. That’s what’s important. That’s what we’re trying to get across to people and we’ve been good. It’s been received well and we’ve certainly made a lot of headway but we still have a lot more work to do and we’re committed to doing it.
Awesome. Thank you so much, Grant, for taking the time today to chat with us about your advocacy efforts. I think having someone with your influence talking about prostate cancer generally and prostate cancer disparity specifically is so important. Our last question is focused on how can we support you to amplify your message? That is what can organizations like ZERO do to help you in your awareness education and advocacy efforts.
First of all, thank you guys, Reggie and Kris, for having me on and the great work that you guys have been doing at ZERO. I think we’re all fighting the same fight. I just think if I were encouraging you or anyone, it’s just to continue to talk about it, spread the news, spread the knowledge, and let’s together- let’s win, let’s win this fight
Grant, thank you again for taking the time to sit down with us today and talk about health disparities and prostate cancer and your advocacy efforts. We really appreciate you using your platform to make your voice heard and to talk to ZERO as well as to the men listening at home to make a difference in the fight against prostate cancer.
Thank you for listening to Prostate Cancer Uncensored, a podcast produced by ZERO – The End of Prostate Cancer. To download more podcasts head over to zerocancer.org.