A Prostate Cancer Survivor Making His Mark on the Journalism World
- TODAY achor Al Roker will receive the 38th annual Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism. The award, which has “honored prominent journalists” since 1984, recognizes accomplishments and leadership over the course of a person’s journalistic career.
- Roker announced he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in March 2020. Since undergoing treatment, he’s been given consistent ‘all-clears,’ but he’ll be doing lifelong testing to make sure the cancer does not return.
- Black men are two to three times more likely to die from prostate cancer, according to one of our experts. It’s important to know your risk-level and stay up-to-date with screening because early detection can lead to better outcomes.
After almost delaying a doctor’s appointment because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Roker was diagnosed with an aggressive type of prostate cancer. He shared the news of his diagnosis on the TODAY show in March 2020 and explained that he would be having surgery. His procedure took place in November and removed his prostate and some surrounding tissue and lymph nodes. Since then, Roker has been given consistent ‘all-clears,’ though he’ll be doing lifelong testing to make sure the cancer does not return. But despite the recent harrowing experience, Roker has been thriving.Read More
Arizona State University officials announced that Roker would receive the 38th annual Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism. The award, which has “honored prominent journalists” since 1984, is meant to recognize accomplishments and leadership over the course of a person’s journalistic career. Previous recipients have included the likes of TV news anchors Lester Holt, Robin Roberts, Anderson Cooper, Scott Pelley, Christiane Amanpour, Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill; sportscasters Al Michaels and Bob Costas; newspaper journalists Dean Baquet, Ben Bradlee, Helen Thomas and Bob Woodward; and media executives Katharine Graham, Al Neuharth and William Paley.
“Al Roker has long been a trusted and treasured voice in homes all across America,” Battinto L. Batts Jr., dean of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, said. “His integrity and commitment to honesty and fairness are the very values that guided the career of our school’s namesake, Walter Cronkite. We are thrilled to honor Al and his contributions to the industry with the 2021 Cronkite Award.”
The Emmy-award-winning weatherman and anchor for the TODAY Show has been engaging with over 30 million viewers per week. He’s also done countless interviews with celebrities like Willie Nelson and Burt Reynolds, and even become a host for NBC’s broadcast of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. And if that weren’t enough, he’s a 13-time published author and a television producer as CEO of Al Roker Entertainment which has produced series like the award-winning Coast Guard TV series (Coast Guard Alaska, Coast Guard Florida, Coast Guard Cape Disappointment) for The Weather Channel, which you can find on Pluto TV.
When he first heard that he was the recipient of the award, Roker thought he “was being pranked by any number of my colleagues at the ‘Today’ show.”
“Now that I realize this is legit, words cannot begin to express the privilege and gratitude I have being honored by ASU with this amazing recognition,” he told ASU News. “I look forward to the award ceremony.”
Understanding Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. About one in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. The disease begins in the walnut-shaped prostate gland located between the rectum and bladder. This gland produces the fluid that nourishes sperm.
When gauging your risk for developing the disease, it’s important to consider the following risk factors:
- Men younger than 40 are less likely to get prostate cancer, but age-related risk quickly rises after age 50. Approximately six of ten cases of prostate cancer are found in men older than 65.
- Prostate cancer develops more often in African-American men and in Caribbean men of African ancestry than in men of other races, and these men tend to develop the disease at a younger age.
- Prostate cancer is most common in North America, northwestern Europe, Australia and on Caribbean islands. It is less common in Asia, Africa, Central America and South America. The reasons for this risk factor are unclear, but more intensive screening and lifestyle differences like diet might be contributing factors.
- Most prostate cancers occur in men without a family history of the disease, but it’s still important to look at your family history because prostate cancer does seem to run in some families. Having a father or brother with prostate cancer, for instance, more than doubles a man’s risk of developing the disease with a higher risk for men with a brother with prostate cancer than those with a father who have it. The risk is also especially high if a man has several affected relatives that developed the cancer at a younger age.
- Inherited gene changes, or mutations, like that of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes can also elevate risk, but this probably accounts for a small percentage of overall cases.
It’s also important to note that, with this disease, symptoms are inconsistent and hard to pinpoint.
“Prostate cancer is a very odd disease in that it doesn’t have a particular symptom,” Dr. Edwin Posadas, director of translational oncology and the medical director of the Urologic Oncology Program at Cedars-Sinai, explained. But changes in urinary function like urinating more or less often or waking up at night to go more than usual could be a sign of the disease. However, it’s important to note that these potential symptoms could also could be caused by a urinary tract infection or even an enlargement of the prostate gland (which is not cancer).
Doctors that have spoken with SurvivorNet shared a hopeful outlook when considering a prostate cancer diagnosis, because there are many treatment options, and there’s been significant treatment progress over the past decade. Surgical and radiation options, for example, have made improvements in reducing side effects of treatment while still providing excellent cure rates. Even for men with an advanced-stage diagnosis, many new options exist to treat prostate cancer and help them maintain an excellent quality of life.
Prostate Cancer and Black Men
Al Roker has made a point to inform people, especially those within the Black community, of the importance of screenings and vigilance when it comes to your health. On the TODAY show, he has shared some staggering statistics saying that 1 in 7 Black men and 1 in 9 men overall will be diagnosed in their lifetime with prostate cancer.
Dr. Posadas says the incidence of prostate cancer in Black men is 60 percent higher, “and they are two to three times more likely to die from the disease.”
Therefore, it is important to know your risk level and prioritize screening. Prostate cancer is typically slow-growing, so it is easily treated if caught early with screening which experts recommend doing around 40 or 45 years old – depending on your family history.
Prostate Cancer Screening
In the United States, many prostate cancer cases are caught with screening examinations. Screening guidelines depend on your risk for the disease. And while it’s not clear if the benefits of prostate cancer screening outweigh the risks for most men, screening can be life-saving. At the very least, it’s important to discuss the pros and cons of screening and your risk factors for the disease with your doctor.
Prostate cancer screening methods look for possible signs of the disease, but they can’t determine for sure if you have cancer. The only way to know for sure if the patient has prostate cancer is with a prostate biopsy – a procedure in which small samples of the prostate are removed and examined under a microscope. But generally speaking, screening for prostate cancer involves a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test and a digital rectal exam to feel the prostate gland.
“It’s slightly uncomfortable but painless, and takes less than 30 seconds,” Dr. Posadas said of these methods. “The amount of information that is gained from that is tremendous, and it can be a life-and-death type decision that is made.”
But it’s important to note that the PSA test is not perfect. The prostate-specific antigen is a protein secreted by the prostate gland. Men have a small amount of PSA in their blood all the time, but large amounts can be a sign of cancer because when cancer cells grow, PSA spills into the blood.
An elevated PSA test, however, does not always mean you have prostate cancer. It can simply reflect that your prostate is enlarged – which is common – or it could signal an infection or inflammation. Because of this, the PSA test is controversial since high levels may lead to over-treatment in men who are more likely to die from something else. Regardless, our experts maintain that the PSA tests are helpful, and you should talk with your doctor about your own risks for the cancer and screening options.