FirstHealth Receives V Foundation Grant
Former Sen. Bob Dole, Gen. Colin Powell, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre and golfing legend Arnold Palmer have something in common other than having a famous name.
They have survived prostate cancer.
Each has also been very public about his disease, a fact that puts him in a different category from most prostate cancer survivors.
Unlike breast cancer survivors who rally, march, lobby and have even adopted a color and an emblem (the pink ribbon) to bring recognition to their cause, men with prostate cancer tend to be very private about the disease, which is projected to be the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in North Carolina and the U.S. this year.
For eight of the past nine years, it has also been the third most frequently diagnosed cancer at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital, following only lung and breast cancer.
Despite the number of prostate cancer diagnoses, many men are surprisingly uninformed about the disease and the treatment options that are available to them -- this according to a recent needs assessment survey and follow-up focus groups conducted by FirstHealth of the Carolinas.
The survey and focus groups are part of what is informally called a FirstHealth Prostate Cancer "Think Tank."
A $50,000 V Foundation grant designed to encourage local prostate cancer survivorship and education efforts provided funding that was channeled through the Moore Regional Hospital Foundation.
Started in 1993 to honor Jim Valvano, the late N.C. State men's basketball coach, the V Foundation for Cancer Research gives 100 percent of all new direct cash donations to cancer research and related programs.
Chris Miller, director of Clinical Trials, was one of six facilitators for the prostate cancer focus groups hosted by FirstHealth.
"There is so much information about prostate cancer," he says. "The typical patient does not know how to narrow it down or really where to begin."
FirstHealth began its focus on prostate cancer with an educational forum called "Prostate Cancer: From Screening to Survivorship." Held in June and hosted by FirstHealth Community Health Services, the Moore Regional Hospital Foundation and Moore Regional's Oncology Division with assistance from Pinehurst Surgical Urology, the program was offered twice and attracted 108 participants.
In addition to PSA screenings and educational exhibits, the event included a panel comprising local urologists, oncologists, a general surgeon and a cancer wellness specialist who discussed interventions, treatment options and survivor health.
In other V Foundation-funded events, FirstHealth Community Health Services conducted 475 free PSA screenings in Moore, Montgomery, Richmond, Hoke and Lee counties, and has begun to offer prostate cancer scholarships to the Cancer Wellness Program at the FirstHealth Center for Health and Fitness-Southern Pines.
The needs assessment survey included a question designed to determine interest in focus group participation, and the men who responded met in three focus group sessions held over two weeks in September.
Each of the 35 participants was a prostate cancer survivor. As a group, they had experienced the treatment gamut from traditional surgery to radiation therapy to robotics.
According to Miller, the focus group discussions brought the participants to three common conclusions -- that men need to know what questions to ask following a prostate cancer diagnosis, that they are under-informed about their treatment options, and that most would find value in some manner of survivor support.
"There was a consensus that it would be a good idea to have a comprehensive tool that gives them pretty much everything they need to make a decision (about treatment)," Miller says, "a simple, but comprehensive source they can have to help them make a decision they can feel comfortable with."
FirstHealth's Rae Williams, administrative director of medical practice management, and Barbara Bennett, administrative director of Community Health Services, assumed the task of turning consensus into practice and are currently working toward that goal.
"The focus groups were initiated to try to meet specific goals to keep with the spirit of the V Foundation grant," Williams says. "From the focus groups, we identified what the men felt was important, and that seemed to center around developing better education tools that summarize treatment options.
"They also liked the concept of a buddy system, a mentor who teaches and leads and is a role model. We want to work on the development of that."
Continued follow-up will involve working with local urologists and radiation and medical oncologists to develop an overview of prostate cancer services as well as recruiting a chairman -- ideally, a prostate cancer survivor -- to champion the overall effort.
"We also need to develop a better sense of bonding with prostate cancer," Williams says. "People have bonded with breast cancer -- pink ribbons are all over. We need more recognition, more interest, more support and more early detection. We want equal opportunity for prostate cancer and the men at risk. We have to be able to talk openly about the disease and about screening, intervention and recovery."
For information on the prostate cancer support services offered by FirstHealth of the Carolinas, call Jodie Kubachka, Oncology Division coordinator, at (910) 715-1900.
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