Walnut Foundation launches lifesaving initiative in Oshawa

In a groundbreaking move to combat prostate cancer among men of African descent in Canada, the Walnut Foundation (TWF) is expanding its reach by launching a “Detect and Protect” free mobile health clinic in Oshawa. Scheduled for April 6, 2024, at the Durham Community Health Centre, 115 Grassmere Ave, this initiative marks the first time TWF has ventured into Durham to serve our community.

Prostate cancer poses a significant threat to Black men, who may be genetically predisposed to the disease, face higher risks of developing it, and are more likely to experience severe disease at a younger age. TWF, a non-profit organization founded in 2007, is dedicated to raising awareness in the Black community about prostate cancer and the importance of early detection.

Ken Noel and Anthony Henry of the Walnut Foundation

“We want to pull out the stops to get men out, and to get the message out about the importance of screening,” said Anthony Henry, president of TWF. “Early detection saves lives.”

The Oshawa clinic is part of a series that includes collaborations with various organizations, including Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, TAIBU Community Health Centre, and the Durham Community Health Centre. These clinics specifically target Black men entering their 40s, providing them with prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing at no charge.

“The target is 40-year-old Black males who have not had a PSA test in the past 12 months and who don’t have a family doctor,” Henry explained. “We think a part of the problem is that some of these guys don’t have family doctors.”

In addition to prostate screening, the clinic offers blood pressure and blood sugar testing, services that could cost $40 to $45 if done independently. “Just 15 minutes can save your life,” Henry emphasized, highlighting the importance of these quick and accessible screenings.

The PSA test is a simple blood test that can provide an early diagnosis of prostate cancer. The recommendation for Black men is to start screening at 40, compared to the wider population’s recommendation of starting at 50.

Henry, who has a personal connection to the disease with four family members impacted by prostate cancer, emphasizes the importance of knowing one’s family history and getting screened early. “Somebody like myself, I’m one of four family members impacted by prostate cancer. My father died from this and, a big part of the reason for that is because he wasn’t screened,” he said.

The Ontario government does not cover PSA testing for all Ontarians through OHIP, which is why advocacy for universal PSA testing is part of ongoing efforts by TWF and other organizations. As an added incentive to encourage participation in the clinic, men undergoing screening will also be offered a meal, a free haircut or massages.

The “Detect and Protect” prostate screening clinic in Oshawa will begin at 10 am and run until 3 pm, providing a vital service in the fight against prostate cancer within the Durham Community Health Centre.