Radio host Sliwa slays fears of prostate cancer
Published: Monday, June 27, 2011, 5:42 AM Updated: Monday, June 27, 2011, 5:45 AM
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Radio talk show host Curtis Sliwa knew he was in trouble when he passed out last April in a public restroom from the side effects of his prostate cancer treatment.
Radio host and anti-crime activist Curtis Sliwa discusses fears and myths associated with prostate cancer at a free Staten Island University Hospital screening. For more information, call the hospital at 718-226-8888.
The longtime WABC personality realized he could no longer continue the holistic approach he had taken since his diagnosis one year prior. As per his doctor’s request, Sliwa decided to have radical robotic surgery, a treatment that would remove his prostate.
One day before the procedure, Sliwa announced on air that he would not be hosting his WNYM morning show the next afternoon. This was the first time that audiences were made aware of his illness.
“I wanted it to be in a conversational way, not alarming,” he said, during a prostate cancer awareness event last week at Staten Island University Hospital (SIUH), Ocean Breeze. “This was a subject that no man wanted to talk about.”
Sliwa, founder and CEO of the anti-crime nonprofit The Guardian Angels, was back on the air four days after the surgery and found strength in his radio show.
“For me, laying down and not being able to do anything was totally emasculating,” he said.
Sliwa’s latest prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening came back cancer-free.
Today, six weeks later, he makes it his duty to ease the fears of men who are caught up in the myths of prostate cancer side effects and to encourage them to go for a screening.
That is just what he did on Thursday as 177 men filed into the radial oncology lobby of SIUH to obtain a free PSA screening.
Several of the men also took advantage of an informational slideshow about prostate cancer, conducted by Dr. Phillip M. Vigneri, chairman of the hospital’s radiation oncology department.
While many men are reluctant to go for a screening, Dr. Vigneri stresses that prostate cancer does not mean an automatic death sentence.
“Many patients do have options,” he said. “It’s worth knowing about early.”
Sliwa, who suffered several gunshot wounds as a result of being kidnapped in 1992, said others were more alarmed by the news of his cancer than his shooting.
“For me, it (being diagnosed) was not a big scare,” he said. When it really became worrisome was when other people were projecting fear, fright and hysteria,” he said.
Silwa, now 57, has been going for screenings since 1995, but did not give prostate cancer much thought since the illness does not run in his family.
He said that gaining credibility as a radio talk show host has allowed him the ability to tell his story and convince men to confront their fear of the screening as well as deal with the results.
“If I can go out there and slay all these myths and confront them like I’ve been doing, I think many more men would go for a screening naturally,” he said.
One Islander following Silwa’s example is Bulls Head resident Alfred Hawthorne, who has had several PSA screenings.
“It gives you peace of mind,” he said.
Frank Martin, an Arden Heights resident who was waiting for his screening, agreed. “You just have to be aware and educated,” he said.
In 2010, approximately 218,000 men in the U.S. were diagnosed with prostate cancer, according to the hospital.
“When the diagnosis comes, deal with it right away,” said Sliwa.
“Most men with prostate cancer don’t die from prostate cancer in this country,” said Dr. Vigneri. Less than one quarter of the 200,000-plus cases per year result in death, he said.
Thursday marked SIUH’s last free PSA screenings for the season. They will resume in the fall. For more information, call Lorretta DeSimone at SIUH 718-226-8888.
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