CARLISLE, Pa. (WHTM) — A Carlisle veteran is featured in the American Association for Cancer Research’s 2020 Cancer Disparities Report.
Col. Gary Steele is battling two types of cancers, but it’s not just his fight he’s focused on.
“Awareness and education and knowledge is power,” said Steele.
The 74-year-old can tell you this first-hand.
The 23-year Army veteran was always pretty healthy and in shape.
But in 2011, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. A few years later, he learned he also had multiple myeloma, which is cancer of plama cells.
He didn’t know African American men over age 60 were at a higher risk for both diseases.
“Once you get punched in the nose, you all of a sudden become aware of things,” said Steele. “You go, ‘gosh I didn’t know that.”
Since then, the dad of three and grandfather of five has been involved in several clinical trials.
He said the one that didn’t work was still worth it because it gathered information.
Another for prostate cancer saved his life.
Plus, his friend did a trial for myeloma years ago.
While she lost her battle, those results are helping him conquer his.
“Because Connie was involved, and many, many others of course, I’m able to take advantage of it,” said Steele.
Steele wants others to know this because while some progress has been made, more research is needed.
“The numbers of minority and diverse folks who enter clinical trials could be greater,” said Steele.
The American Association for Cancer Research’s 2020 Cancer Disparities Report outlines the toll cancer takes on minorities and other underserved populations.
Earlier this month, Steele spoke to Congress about the findings.
“To a great extent, those are the folks with their hands on the coffers,” said Steele. “Those are the folks who say, ‘we’re going to take these dollars and apply them here.”
It’s because of these ongoing studies that Steele knows to tell his sons: ask for that extra prostate test, even if you’re still young.
“You can start to work at and think about the best way to create perhaps these treatments for everyone,” said Steele.
Steele says he takes medicine to manage both cancers, but overall, he’s feeling great.
More on the American Association for Cancer Research’s 2020 Report:
The report found African Americans have had the highest overall cancer death rate of any racial or ethnic group in the U.S. for more than four decades.
It adds that many of the factors driving COVID disparities overlap with factors contributing to cancer disparities.
So, experts are predicting the pandemic will make existing cancer disparities worse.
The association says minorities and underserved populations are severely underrepresented in clinical trials, and the understanding of how cancer develops in some people is simply lacking.
Researchers do know the disparities are due to differences and inequalities in environmental, behavioral, social, clinical, cultural, pychological, biological and genetic factors.
Still, there has been some progress over the years, which is also highlighted in the report. For example, there is proof that certain disparities can be eliminated, if there is equal access to care.
The report ends with a call to action: to give more funding to programs aiming to reduce dispairities and to make sure clinical trials have diverse participants.