As a former professional baseball player, Ken Griffey Sr. knows the importance of annual physical exams.
As an older man with a family history of prostate cancer, Griffey Sr. also knows the importance of getting tested for this potentially deadly disease.
This knowledge paid off 12 years ago when Griffey Sr. went in for a screening, and a PSA blood test showed he had prostate cancer.
Doctors caught the disease early enough that the former Major League star only needed surgery to remove the cancer.
Since then, he has had annual checkups to make sure the cancer hasn’t returned.
That experience is why Griffey Sr. and his son — Hall of Fame baseball star Ken Griffey Jr. — have teamed up to publically discuss the disease and urge men to get prostate cancer screenings.
“You have to get it early,” Griffey Sr. told Healthline. “It can save your life.”
Prostate cancer risks
The Griffeys are part of Bayer’s Men Who Speak Up campaign about prostate cancer.
The campaign website alerts men to the fact that about 230,000 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed each year. About 3 million men are now living with the disease.
About 97 percent of prostate cancer cases are in men over the age of 50. About 60 percent are in men over the age of 65.
In addition, African-American men are 56 percent more likely to develop prostate cancer compared with Caucasian men.
If you have a family history of the disease, the risk rises even higher.
The campaign also emphasizes the importance of catching the disease early.
In 16 percent of prostate cancer patients at initial diagnosis, the disease has spread to another part of the body.
Making men aware
You don’t need to convince Griffey Sr. of the importance of getting screened.
As a 67-year-old African-American man, he already is in a higher risk group. Add to that the fact four of his uncles died from the disease, and the necessity to get screened annually became even more important.
“Don’t let it get outside the box,” he said.
Griffey Jr. is now 47, so he is approaching the age where prostate cancer becomes more common.
“It’s always been a concern because of my dad and uncles,” he told Healthline.
Griffey Jr. still gets annual physicals, and prostate cancer screening is part of that routine.
“I’m used to it,” he said.
He noted that it is important for younger men to get screened but also to encourage their friends to do the same thing.
“It’s important for friends to get on each other about it,” he said.
There are those who say men don’t need regular prostate cancer screenings. They say the PSA and other tests can miss cancers as well as cause infections and other problems.
Those criticisms came to light last year when actor Ben Stiller wrote an essay about getting prostate cancer at age 46. He said an early screening saved his life.
The Griffeys wholeheartedly agree with Stiller.
That’s why the father-son duo is participating in cancer awareness walks, health summits, and community education conferences.
“We’re not afraid to talk about it,” said Griffey Sr.
The former baseball stars also have their personal futures as motivation.
“I want to be around for my grandchildren,” said Griffey Sr.
“We want to be the old guys on the golf course,” added Griffey Jr.