DECATUR — The Macon County Health Department is urging area men to give their families a special gift this holiday season.

By taking charge of their health and getting screened for prostate cancer, men can give their loved ones some peace of mind and make sure they are around for years to come, said health educator Tayisha Nelson.

As part of a prostate and testicular cancer grant, the department is offering free PSA blood screenings to help test area men. The department recently offered one free screening event and will host several more during the month.

“Our current prostate cancer grant is actually coming to a close at the end of the year, and we found that we had a little bit of funding left, so, we decided that we might as well go all out and make a couple of different accessible events,” said Brandi Binkley, the department’s director of health promotion and public relations.

By the end of the year, more than 300 men will have been screened for the cancer and educated at various community outreach events, she said.

The holidays are a busy time, but around all the activities with family and friends, it’s important to make health a priority, said Nelson. “We want to have a reminder that we want men to continue to have holidays with their families.”

The screenings are simple and require drawing a blood sample and taking a few minutes to fill out paperwork.

“Once the paperwork is completed, it’s not even five minutes,” said Nelson.

She encouraged all men in the community to take advantage of the screenings.

“We are trying to reach all men; but of course, African-American men, prostate cancer affects them at a higher rate,” she said.

Bob Jelks, a local prostate cancer advocate and outreach coordinator for the prostate and testicular cancer grant, was on hand at the recent event to provide information and to encourage the men attending.

Bill Anders, 56, a custodian at the Macon County Health Department since April, attended the recent PSA screening after reading about it on a flyer.

“I haven’t had one in a real long time, and I thought that I’m at that age when you need all the early detection you can get,” he said.

Anders said he hasn’t had any friends or family affected by prostate cancer. He said he hasn’t had a regular physical in about two years.

“I worked at a chemical plant for 28 years, and they had blood tests for cancer twice a year,” he said. “ … It’s a bad disease, but if they can get it early, they can help them. Early detection is a wise choice.”

Binkley said the organizers of the community outreach events and screenings have made an effort to target area men where they live, work and worship to make it easy for them to take advantage of the services.

“Some men are thinking about (their health) more at this time of year because of family and holidays being healthy and wanting to be around, so it’s kind of a nice time,” she said.

For more information on prostate cancer or upcoming outreach and screenings, call the Macon County Health Department at 423-6988, ext. 1130.|421-6968

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