Norfolk prostate cancer survivor raising awareness for men's health

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Posted at 8:00 PM, Nov 17, 2021

NORFOLK, Va. - All month long, News 3 is taking action for men's health, raising awareness of issues and funds for the Movember Foundation.

READ: Men’s Health Movember: How to get involved, take action to raise awareness

One of the organization’s key focus areas is prostate cancer awareness.

According to the American Cancer Society, aside from skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer and second leading cause of cancer death in American men.

But one Norfolk man who is fighting the battle is speaking up to help other men.

“Typically, as a man, we don't talk about our health,” prostate cancer survivor Bruce Crooks told News 3.

Crooks has spent much of the pandemic battling prostate cancer after being diagnosed last May.

“It is scary,” he said.

He said it started about two to three years ago when he started showing symptoms.

For Crooks, prostate cancer was always in the back of his head.

“It runs in my family. My father had prostate cancer [and] passed away from that. My brother had it twice,” he said. “I went to my doctor, who referred me to a urologist. They did the standard PSA [Prostate-Specific Antigen] check, and everything looked normal.”

But over time, he continued having symptoms.

“The urgency, the frequency - those things continued to get worse and worse,” he said. “As a man, those are types of things you don't really want to talk about.”

He ended up taking action and getting a second opinion.

“It wasn't a much of a 'what' - it was a 'who:' My wife,” Crooks said. “I was reluctant, and I probably wouldn't have done the additional testing if it wasn't for my wife.”

What followed were more tests, and eventually, a phone call.

“He said, ‘We certainly didn't think this was the case because of your PSA. You're one of those rare cases where, unfortunately, you do have cancer,'” Crooks recalled. “I was pretty numb. But then, I just got thinking about what I needed to do.”

What he did was targeted radiation he completed earlier this year.

“To have a man admit that he has prostate cancer is something that's taboo in a lot of circles,” Dr. Rod Flynn, medical director for Sentara Healthcare’s Peninsula Oncology Program, said.

Dr. Flynn said their goal is getting providers in the community and upgrading surgical technology, while also getting men to have a conversation.

“There shouldn't be a stigma attached to this,” Dr. Flynn told News 3. “There's nothing you did that caused this.”

He told News 3 prostate cancer awareness is key, especially for African American men.

“Not only are you approximately twice as more likely to get prostate cancer in the African American population, roughly, you're also twice as likely to die from prostate cancer.”

“Some of it has to do with access to healthcare,” Dr. Flynn added. “In the African American population, they just don't have as much access to these primary care physicians because the primary care physicians are really the ones that have essentially the checklists of the dates and times people should begin their screenings for different cancers.”

Meanwhile, Crooks is raising awareness by sharing resources with co-workers.

“We continue to publish articles; have interviews not only with myself, but others that have been diagnosed with cancer, and we put it on our intranet site for our employees to read,” he said.

All while his next appointment in two weeks determining whether he's disease free is on his mind.

“Hopefully, it'll show that we've taken care of it and I'm on the battle of being cured,” Crooks said.

Overall, his goal is to make a difference by sharing his story and paying it forward.

“It's good to know that I'm taking care of my health,” Crooks said.

Dr. Flynn shared with News 3 tips and information for checking for prostate cancer.

According to Dr. Flynn, around age 45, you should be talking with your doctor about getting the PSA blood test, which is used to screen for prostate cancer.

However, he said if you have certain risk factors, you should consider getting your first screening at age 40.

Those risk factors, Dr. Flynn said, includes being of African American descent or having a direct family history of certain cancers. These include the breast cancer mutation known as BRCA2, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer.