Today we are proud to launch an interactive web-based tool aimed at raising awareness and addressing disparities related to prostate cancer in North Carolina. Created in conjunction with the UNC Men’s Health Program, the Prostate Cancer Across North Carolina tool provides a detailed, county-by-county map view of prostate cancer cases and deaths, offering valuable insights for local and state organizations as well as the public.
“By offering detailed insights into new cases and mortality rates for each NC county, we aim to raise awareness and empower individuals, healthcare professionals, and policymakers across the state to create policies and practices that will reduce disparities, improve outcomes for all, and save lives,” said Nathan Dollar, PhD, director of Carolina Demography at the Carolina Population Center, and a co-lead on the project.
The map helps users access downloadable county-specific prostate cancer reports utilizing the latest data from the National Cancer Institute’s State Cancer Profiles (currently from 2016-2020).
“Many prostate cancer deaths, as well as other devastating events like heart attacks and strokes, can be prevented or avoided with early detection – when the problem is more treatable and curable,” said co-project leader Eric Wallen MD, a professor of urology at the UNC School of Medicine and a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.
“The UNC Men’s Health Program seeks to raise community awareness and help patients get tested by partnering with communities to identify risks not just to men, but to their families and communities, because any serious illness has a ripple effect on everyone who knows the patient,” said Wallen. “Newer, better tools to test for and treat prostate cancer means that we can identify and help the men who really need care and, just as important, avoid unnecessary treatment in those who do not.”
KEY FEATURES OF THE TOOL:
NOTEWORTHY STATE AND COUNTY-SPECIFIC STATISTICS FROM THIS TOOL:
A CALL TO ACTION:
The UNC Men’s Health Program, housed at the UNC School of Medicine, and Carolina Demography, housed at the Carolina Population Center at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, envision this tool as a catalyst for positive change, urging local and state organizations, as well as the public, to advocate for enhanced access to screenings, monitoring, and appropriate treatments.
Early detection remains pivotal to improve survival rates, with 5-year survival rates near 100% when the cancer remains localized to the prostate, compared to 34% for cases diagnosed after cancer spreads to other parts of the body.
In addition, new and improved diagnostic tools and technologies that have become available in the past several years now make it easier to detect the disease in the early stages, making screening more accurate than ever.
A significant factor contributing to the disparities in prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment in North Carolina is the distinct difference in healthcare-seeking behaviors between men and women. Men, often due to societal pressures, tend to downplay the importance of screening and interventions for many health concerns. Barriers in access such as the distance from healthcare providers in rural areas and the affordability of care can hinder regular preventative health appointments, contributing to alarming disparities in our communities.
A particularly affected community in North Carolina is Black men, facing not only a higher risk of prostate cancer but also diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Currently, Black men are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed than men of other racial and ethnic groups – the largest disparity for any major cancer in men or women. These issues not only affect individuals but also have profound impacts on their families.
“Many of us at UNC strive for ways to connect our research to public needs and impact,” said project co-lead Samuel Baxter, PhD, MPH, in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. “I hope the Prostate Cancer Map will be viewed for what it is – a tool to raise awareness, conversation, empowerment, and synergy to improve health for all men, across race, ethnicity, and place. Through data visualization, we hope that communities, clinicians, practitioners, and researchers will become inspired and interested to collaborate with the UNC Men’s Health Program and its growing partnerships that serve North Carolina.”
REACHING BEYOND ADVOCACY – INTERACTIVE COMMUNITY EVENTS
The UNC Men’s Health Program recently hosted an event called “Men, Know Your Numbers” that was focused on raising awareness and screening men for common health issues.
The highly successful gathering was held in September 2023 in Wilson, NC and emphasized health concerns affecting Black men, particularly prostate cancer. Event highlights included:
The next screening event is scheduled for February 10th, 2024, at the Jasper G. Hayes Omega Center in New Bern, NC. Phil Ford, Victor Taylor, and Dr. Eric Wallen will again share their expertise, underscoring the program’s commitment to proactive men’s health and community engagement.
COMING SOON: MEN’S HEALTH REPORT CARD
Beyond the new “Prostate Cancer Across North Carolina” tool, the Men’s Health Program is collaborating with Carolina Demography to create a “Men’s Health Report Card,” a comprehensive health and demographic report complementing the existing Women’s Health Report Card from the Center for Women’s Health Research at UNC.
The Men’s Health Report Card is expected to be available in early 2024.
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