Dozens of husbands, brothers, sons and nephews attended the annual West Side Men’s Health Fair on Sept. 17. The event, held at Loretto Hospital, was co-sponsored by the hospital, the networking group West Side Men and Austin Weekly News. The Saturday fair allowed some men to learn the importance of seeing a doctor and knowing their bodies.
According to a recent report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men are 80 percent less likely than women to use any regular source of healthcare.
This year’s event included free screenings, presentations and panel discussions moderated by the Rev. Walter Jones, founder of the organization Fathers That Care.
“West Side Men is a group of men from the West Side and various parts of the city who are worried about their communities and would like to take action,” said Lee Owens, who said that events like Saturday’s health fair can have an impact on the community.
The health fair’s panel focused not only the importance of men scheduling routine doctor visits, but also knowing their body and family health history.
“People are afraid to go to the doctor, because people they’re scared to here what’s wrong with them,” said Dr. Muhammad Shazad, who runs internal medicine at Loretto Hospital. His presentation focused on how the body signals of stress.
“How many of you have been to a doctor without anything being wrong with you?” Shazad asked.
Not one person raised his hand. Shazad went on to explain how having open dialogue and routine checkups with your doctor can save your life.
“Primary prevention of any disease is bringing it up to your doctor,” he said, before also discussing how some people’s failure to tell their doctor about problems such as high levels of stress and depression can be detrimental to their health.
“Depression can lead to many diseases, such a pancreatic cancer,” said Shazad, whose office offers free stress and anxiety screenings to any one over the age of 15.
Loretto Hospital’s urologist, Dr. Alan Sahad, discussed prostate cancer — two words no man wants to hear. Sahad specializes in prostate cancer, non-cancerous prostate diseases and erectile dysfunction.
“Prostate cancer is a higher risk in African American men, especially if you have family members that have had it in the past,” he said.
African-American men are 2.4 times more likely than white men to develop, and die from, prostate cancer. Sahad urged every man between 50 to 70 years old to be screened, especially if they’re African American.
Prostate cancer’s symptoms often take years to show, he said, which make screenings critical.
“The beauty of screening is you don’t need to show symptoms to be screened,” Sahad said, adding patients should be screened for all cancerous diseases. It’s better to catch a disease before symptoms start to show, he said.
William R. Barron, Jr., a prostate cancer survivor, said his cancer showed no warning signs in its early stages. One day, however, he starts having issues with his bladder and discovered an infection had developed in his prostate, leading to a blockage in his urinary tract.
“We as men need to get rid of the stereotype that real men don’t go to the doctors,” Barron said. “I live in my doctor’s office now.”