For all the excitement surrounding the O's 7-5 victory over the Rays on Wednesday night, Brooks Robinson's disclosure that he has prostate cancer obviously trumped the importance of any game outcome.
Robinson shared the news publicly for the first time during an American Cancer Society event promoting the Patient Navigator program.
Robinson is one of an estimated 192,288 American men who will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2009, with 3,580 of those cases occurring in Maryland. Prostate cancer accounted for 25 percent of new cancer cases in men in 2009 making it the leading site of male cancer diagnoses. (Breast cancer is the most common site of new cases among women.) Men have a 1-in-6 chance of getting prostate cancer during their lifetime. (See: 2009 American Cancer Society Facts & Figures.)
The good news is that prostate cancer survival rates are favorable. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 90 percent of all such cases are discovered in the local and regional stages, for which the five-year survival rate is nearly 100 percent. The five-year survival rate for all stages of prostate cancer combined has improved over the last 25 years from 69 percent to almost 99 percent. These improvements have been attributed in part to earlier diagnosis and improvements in treatment.
Brooks Robinson's diagnosis is a reminder to men of the importance of regular health check-ups. When it comes to most any kind of cancer, prevention and early detection are key.
There are many dispiriting cancer stories, and much work remains to be done in the fight against this disease; however, through the efforts of the American Cancer Society (disclaimer: I used to work there and continue to volunteer for them) and other worthwhile organizations, cancer can become a chronic illness rather than a terminal disease.
Robinson is working to produce positive results from a negative situation by drawing attention to the American Cancer Society's Patient Navigator program, which provides patients with support and resources to assist with the oftentimes disorienting process of treating cancer.
Said Robinson at Wednesday's ACS event: When you are diagnosed with cancer, your only focus should be on getting better. If you don't know where to go for help, you can't get it. If you know what questions to ask, you can't get the answers."
For more information on the Patient Navigator Program, visit this site. To make a donation to the American Cancer Society, follow this link. To learn about the American Cancer Society's partner advocacy organization, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), which encourages legislators to support important programs like Patient Navigator, go here.