Inside Webb’s Barber Shop on Eddie Robinson Drive Saturday morning, men tended to their hair with a fresh cut. Outside, others tended to their health with a free prostate cancer screening.
Some did both.
“I got my health care, and I got my hair cut,” said Kelvin Gray Sr., president of the Beta Iota Lambda chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, who attended the screening.
Mary Bird Perkins-Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center hosts the annual barbershop screening each September, designated National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, to promote education and early detection of the disease.
The screening, which draws 50 to 75 men a year, targets black men. They have a 60 percent higher risk of prostate cancer compared with white men, according to studies, in part because they often lack access to routine health care.
“We know African-American men have greater incidence. More importantly, their mortality rate is higher,” said Johnnay Benjamin, director of early detection and education for the Cancer Center. “Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death for African-American men.”
The Cancer Center parked its mobile medical clinic and set up shop at 9 a.m. in the parking lot across the street from Webb’s Barber Shop, which is located on the corner of Government Street and Eddie Robinson Drive.
The light-blue barbershop, housed in an aged, two-story building, is a staple of the neighborhood and has been the go-to place for haircuts since the 1920s. The location is a convenient spot to offer prostate screenings because many local black men consider the barbershop a trusted place, Benjamin said.
“It’s really about providing access in a community (where) they feel comfortable,” she said.
Gray and other members of the local Alpha Phi Alpha chapter attend the event every year to provide volunteer support. Gray said they see a strong need for these types of cancer screenings in the community.
“It’s about your health. If you don’t have quality of life, everything else is null and void,” he said.
Darius Hollins, 50, has a relative with prostate cancer and has attended the screenings each year since it began in 2008. The barbershop is where he first heard about the event, he said.
Hollins, of Prairieville, said he sees more and more people coming to the screenings each year and believes awareness of prostate cancer is spreading.
“It’s good to get a heads-up so you can catch it early,” he said.
The prostate screenings are for men 50 and older who do not have a doctor and have not been screened in the last 12 months. Men at higher risk for the disease, such as those with a family history, are encouraged to get screened starting at age 45.
The Cancer Center set up a table to fill out paperwork and a tent where men have their blood drawn — part one of the screening — before going into the mobile clinic for their physical examination. A medical professional was available to discuss screenings beforehand with the men to determine if it is right for them.
For Ronnie Garrett, 53, of Baton Rouge, the reason to get screened for prostate cancer was simple.
“I want to live and stay healthy,” he said.
Garrett heard about the screening event on the radio and has attended about three times. He noted that the barbershop is a good location.
King Davis, owner and barber at Webb’s Barber Shop, couldn’t agree more.
“The best thing you can have is to have it over here,” Davis, 79, said. “Everybody knows about the barbershop.”
Other organizations usually join the Cancer Center’s barbershop screening event as a collaborative health effort, Benjamin said. This year, the Baton Rouge AIDS Society attended to offer HIV testing, and representatives from Tobacco Free Living’s “Healthier Air for All” initiative set up a tent for information. The Louisiana Cultural Economy Foundation also provided live music.
The Cancer Center has additional prostate screenings planned for 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sept. 24 at the office of 100 Black Men, 2050 N. Foster Drive; and prostate, breast, skin and colorectal screenings are 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 26 at Hope Ministries, 4643 Winbourne Ave.