Star Power: Louis Gossett Jr. Raises Awareness About Prostate Cancer

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By Whitney Greer

Actor Louis Gossett Jr., best known for his Oscar-winning role as the tough drill instructor in "An Officer and a Gentleman," recently announced that he's been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Pledging his dedication to help encourage others in the black community to be screened, Gossett said that there was a real need to raise a greater awareness of the disease, especially in African American communities.

Black men have the highest incidence rates for developing prostate cancer, though the exact reasons for this link is unclear. Currently, death rates from prostate cancer are 2.4 times higher in African Americans than in white men. Moreover, African American men tend to present with more advanced disease and have poorer overall prognoses than Caucasian or Asian men.

Gossett, 73, said his cancer was in its early stages and that his decision to go public was to encourage more African-Americans to realize the disparity of the disease in the black community, and the seriousness of not waiting until its too late to be examined and, if necessary, receive treatment. The award-winning actor said he had begun an intensive treatment program so that he can resume his acting schedule, and work with his Eracism Foundation, as soon as possible.

"I count this diagnosis among the many challenges I have faced in my life and overcome. I expect this to be no different," Gossett said in a statement.

The actor's Eracism Foundation works to raise awareness of issues such as racism, ignorance and social apathy.

“I wanted to go public to set an example for the large number of African-American men who are victims of this disease because of the comparatively low emphasis in our community on preventive examinations and early treatment," Gossett said.

Gossett won a supporting actor Oscar for his role as Sgt. Emil Foley in the 1982 romantic drama "An Officer and A Gentleman" starring Richard Gere.

He has since appeared in more than 60 movies or TV shows, including the recent science fiction series "Stargate SG-1" and has three movies coming up including Tyler Perry's April comedy release "Why Did I Get Married Too."

Gossett's memoir "An Actor and A Gentleman" is due to be published in May and he is currently promoting a PBS documentary that he executive produced called "For Love Of Liberty: The Story of America's Black Patriots" to be shown later in February.

Common Signs and Symptoms of Prostate Cancer

In its early stages, prostate cancer usually does not cause noticeable symptoms. However, some men will experience symptoms that might indicate the presence of prostate cancer, including:

  • A need to urinate frequently, especially at night
  • Difficulty starting urination or holding back urine
  • Weak or interrupted flow of urine
  • Blood in urine or semen
  • Frequent pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips or upper thighs

Because these symptoms can also indicate the presence of other diseases or disorders, men who experience any of these symptoms should undergo a thorough check-up to determine the underlying cause of the symptoms.

What Do I Need To Do?

While most experts agree that healthy men over the age of 50 should consider screening for prostate cancer, those who are at a higher risk of prostate cancer, such as African American men or those with a family history of prostate cancer, should consider starting annual screening at age 40.

Physicians commonly use two examinations to screen men for prostate cancer: a digital rectal examination (DRE), in which a doctor inserts a gloved finger into the rectum to feel for lumps in the prostate, and a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test, a simple test that measures a patient’s level of PSA in the blood. PSA is a protein produced by the prostate and is a good indicator of activity (such as cell division) in the gland. A prostate that feels abnormal, along with an elevated PSA level, are possible indicators of the disease; however neither test alone nor in combination can provide a definitive diagnosis. If either test is abnormal, your physician may suggest a biopsy, which can provide much more information and is required before a diagnosis can be made. granted permission to reprint “Louis Gossett Jr. Raises Awareness About Prostate Cancer.”

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