When Lemuel Smith heard an announcement about the BVI Red Cross’ annual prostate cancer screening over the weekend, he immediately made plans to attend. By 7 a.m. on Friday, he was already at the Red Cross Headquarters in Johns Hole.
He was not alone. Men began gathering at the building as early as 2:45 a.m., said Deniese Gardener, the BVIRC office administrator.
“I’m impressed with it so far,” Ms. Gardener said Friday morning as volunteers worked to register and screen attendees.
Registration began at 5:30 a.m. and the tests began 30 minutes later. By the end of the two-day event, 640 men had been screened, Ms. Gardener said this week.
The Red Cross saw an increase in first-time attendees, with a total of 162, she said, adding, “To me, that was a success.”
There were also more male volunteers this year, the organiser said, attributing the increase to a heightened public awareness campaign.
Mr. Smith said he gets his prostate screened regularly.
“I do it every opportunity I get. What one person miss, another person might catch,” he said. “Yearly on my birthday, my first date is with my doctor. After all my tests, my wife can decide whatever she wants to do.”
He has attended the BVIRC screening since it began in 1999, he said, adding that more men should take advantage of the free service.
“I don’t know it is so much now as it was before, … but there was always this macho thing about nobody messing with my bum and nobody messing with my [penis]. Any operation that messes with that place, for some reason they think that makes him less of a man,” he said.
Alexander Thompson, who was waiting to get tested, began having his prostate checked in 2002, he said.
“I’m open-minded. I’m someone who is very health conscious. I try to eat right and take care of my body,” he said. “Some men think it’s not relevant, but it is. Sometimes you think you don’t have it, but at the last minute it shows up.”
Health officials recommend that men ages 35 and up have yearly prostate checks, according to Ms. Gardener.
Mr. Thompson began his checks a few years early, he said. “This is important especially for family men,” he said. “They need to take this seriously, because when they die they leave people who are depending on them behind.”
Similar tests will be conducted on Virgin Gorda tomorrow and Saturday at the Virgin Gorda Catholic Community Centre.