Family health history conversation saves lives of two brothers who battled prostate cancer

CLEVELAND -- What sort of things do you talk about with your family when you get together for the holidays?  It might be a time to talk about your family's health history.

For two Cleveland brothers, that's a conversation that saved their lives.

"While I was chitchatting with my older brother, who's a military guy -- he's three years older, he casually mentions last year 'oh yeah, I had prostate cancer five years ago' and I was like 'how come you didn't tell anybody?' and he says 'hey, why?'"

Other than dealing with some urinary issues 77-year-old retired principal Frank Perez has, overall, managed to stay out of the doctors office most of his life, but that conversation with his older brother revealed something else.

"I had already been through my prostate problems and, god goodness gracious, he was the one who told me that when they autopsied dad, he had prostate cancer," Perez said.

With a family history of cancer so close, Frank had a conversation with his younger brother Rick.

They were both having some issues and visited doctors at the Cleveland Clinic to get checked out, and both Frank and Rick were diagnosed with prostate cancer. The brothers received treatment together and got healthy together.

All of this resulting from talking about family history which doctors say is a conversation every family has to have.

"A lot of times it's may be taboo to discuss certain conditions that certain individuals have suffered from," said Clinic Urologist Doctor Charles Modlin.

Modlin says African American men in particular have a greater incidence of developing and dying from prostate cancer, and that family conversation is a first step toward awareness.

"Just talk to one another, especially it's important to impart this knowledge to the younger individuals in our families, in our communities.  They have a right to know. They have a right to know the type of diseases and medical condition they are predisposed to." Dr. Modlin said.

Frank Perez is looking forward to Thanksgiving dinner with his extended family. He's already had the cancer talk with his sons.

He says when he thinks of all the young men he taught over the 40 years he spent in the classroom, he hopes they are also taking care of their health.

"The youngest ones would be right around 40, so it's that group you want to talk to." Dr. Modlin said.

To find out more information about prostate cancer you can follow this link.

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