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Researchers hope to help African-American prostate cancer survivors cope with side-effects

GREENVILLE, N.C.   (Feb. 24, 2009)   —   Researchers at East Carolina University are looking at whether providing coping skills training or comprehensive disease education to African-American prostate cancer survivors and their partners will help them better manage side-effects and improve their quality of life.

ECU's Procare study will evaluate a telephone-based coping skills training program tailored to black prostate cancer survivors and their intimate partners. The study is funded by a four-year, $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. Researchers at Duke University are also participating in the study.

"The Procare study is an effort to address the needs of African-American prostate cancer survivors in a couples context," said Dr. Lisa Campbell, a psychologist and associate director of the ECU Center for Health Disparities Research. Campbell described how prostate cancer affects couples by quoting a survivor: "'If I've got it, she's got it.'"

In North Carolina last year, an estimated 6,543 people were diagnosed with prostate cancer, and more than 800 died from the disease, Campbell said, citing data from the North Carolina State Center for Health Statistics. From 2001-2004, black men with prostate cancer in North Carolina died at nearly three times the rate of white men, 73 per 100,000 compared to 25 per 100,000, she said.

In the Procare study, 189 early stage African-American prostate cancer survivors and their intimate partners will be randomized to one of three conditions: a six-session partner-assisted coping skills training intervention; a cancer education intervention of equal duration; or usual care. The study will measure quality of life, depression and relationship quality pre-and post-treatment among survivors and partners.

Campbell spoke during a Thursday presentation on health disparities research at ECU for First District U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, held at the East Carolina Heart Institute at ECU.

"In rural communities, men have no idea of prostate problems," Butterfield said. "They just don't get it."

Nine of the state's top 10 counties for prostate cancer mortality are in the east, Campbell said: Hertford, Northampton, Tyrrell, Martin, Perquimans, Sampson, Robeson, Gates and Edgecombe, again citing data from the State Center for Health Statistics.

The prostate is a reproductive system gland, slightly larger than a walnut, near the rectum that produces part of the fluid contained in semen. Sexual and urinary symptoms - such as impotence and incontinence -- and bowel symptoms are common after surgeons remove a cancerous prostate and often persist well beyond the acute treatment and recovery period. Reducing symptom distress and increasing quality of life are important symptom-management goals.

Symptom-management efforts have traditionally focused on the patient. However, symptoms also affect partners and the relationship. Among African-American men and their partners, the burden may be even greater. Black men have a 60 percent higher incidence rate of prostate cancer, more advanced disease at diagnosis and higher mortality rates than white men. Research also indicates that African-American men recover more slowly after treatment for prostate cancer.

For more information, contact Campbell at 888-442-8202 or via e-mail at


Contact: Doug Boyd | 252-744-2482