NEW YORK--Baseball-Hall-of-Famer Bob Watson remembered feeling "on top of the world" in October, 1993, after being named the first African-American general manager of a major league ball club (the Houston Astros), but the very next year, at the age of 47, he was feeling "angry and afraid" after learning he had prostate cancer.
Mr. Watson, who is now the general manager of the New York Yankees, wants to get the message out--in particular to African-Americans whose risk of developing prostate cancer is 37% higher than that of white men--that all men should have an annual digital rectal examination and a PSA test starting at age 50, and high-risk men (African-Americans and any man with a family history of prostate cancer) should begin testing at age 40.
"I believe the PSA test saved my life," he said at a combined American Cancer Society/Cancer Research Institute media briefing.
His PSA level of 5.8 set off a chain of events, including ultrasound and biopsy, that showed "one of the most aggressive forms of prostate cancer," Mr. Watson said, but fortunately it was still enclosed in the gland. His surgery was successful, and he has been an outspoken patient activist ever since.
Mr. Watson pointed out that in 1996 some 40,000 American men will die of prostate cancer, "more people than can fit in Fenway Park," the Boston stadium that seats 36,500.
A Prostate Cancer Day is planned for Yankee Stadium, he said, and, partly as a symbolic gesture to encourage older men to be tested, all major league players will have a PSA test as part of their annual spring training physical.