African-American men with prostate cancer live as long as their white counterparts if they receive the same treatment, two cancer research studies show. African-American men, however, are not receiving comparable treatment, says Dr. Mack Roach, Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology and Medical Oncology at the University of California, San Francisco. They also aren't going to the doctor until they have late-stage disease, he notes. These are the main reasons why African-Americans are two times more likely to die of the disease than white men, he says.
Some people have suggested that just because a person is African-American his cancer will be more deadly, says Dr. Roach. "This is simply not true," he contends.
Some studies have reported that, overall, African- American men do worse than their white counterparts. When African-American men took part in studies conducted by the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG) this wasn't the case, Dr. Roach reports. The studies offered quality standardized care, according to Dr. Roach.
African-American men diagnosed with prostate cancer should ask their doctor if they can participate in a cancer research study, advises Dr. Jim Cox, Chairman of the RTOG. These studies guarantee that all patients, regardless of race, receive the same treatment as other men in the studies.
"Quality care is essential, but African-Americans also must get screened early if we want to reduce the number of prostate cancer deaths in this group," says Dr. Roach. This is exactly the opposite of what is happening, he says. Perhaps because of greater access and heightened awareness, more whites are being screened. "The difference in stage of disease at diagnosis between African- Americans and whites is getting larger," notes Dr. Roach.