More than 400 prostate cancer survivors, their families and friends, walked and ran Sunday in the Dash for Dad in Delaware Park to help end the disease.
For David and Brenda Spillman of Buffalo, who both won top competitive honors for their respective 5K run times -- 18:55 for him, 19:41 for her -- it meant more than trophies. Brenda's dad is a prostate cancer survivor.
The walk/run was held to raise awareness and funding for prostate health -- especially in underserved communities where rates of prostate cancer are significantly higher, places where where people don't readily have easy access to health care.
September is national Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. The disease, which claims a life every 18 minutes, afflicts one in five African-American males.
Community leaders like Erie County Executive Chris Collins and Buffalo Branch NAACP President Frank Messiah also were on hand to encourage early detection.
"The turnout is phenomenal," exclaimed walk/run representative Mary Beth Popp. "It's a first-time race for Buffalo, but we plan on making it an annual event. The dream is to make this event a platform for educating people on prostate cancer, celebrating survivors and honoring others -- like the Susan G. Komen [Race] for the Cure
does for breast cancer."
It's most important to get the word out about prostate cancer, adds Dr. Michael Duff, radiation oncologist at Cancer Care of Western New York, because early detection "with PSA testing can catch the disease in its early stages when it is most curable. That's why we felt it was so important to bring this national race to the Western New York community."
He's one of the doctors at Cancer Care of Western New York, Western New York Urology Associates and Main Urology Associates who want to educate local men about the vital role early detection plays in the successful diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer.
Walk/race proceeds benefited ZERO -- the Project to End Prostate Cancer, a leading national organization dedicated to research, education and promoting early detection. Among other benefits, proceeds will help fund screenings in underserved communities.
Just what is the PSA test?
It's "a simple blood test that measures the level of prostate-specific antigen -- an enzyme made by the prostate gland," explained Dr. Kent Chevli, urologist at Western New York Urology Associates. "The death rate for prostate cancer is steadily decreasing due largely to PSA screening, and other advancements in cancer screening and treatment.
Dr. Phil Aliotta, of Main Urology Associates, put out some alarming numbers:
"This year alone, 200,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and almost 29,000 nationwide will die," he said. It's the disease that claimed the lives of Frank Zappa, Timothy Leary, Irving R. Levine, Bill Bixby and, last summer, former WGRZ-TV sportscaster Gary Papa.
But "we're hoping to provide a critical solution for the men in our community so that Western New York dads are with us for years to come," Aliotta pointed out.
Fleet Feet owner and local race director Dan Loncto managed this year's race.
Loncto said the Dash for Dad was "a perfect way to get out and help fight prostate cancer -- no surprise that the people of Western New York stepped out to support this cause."