Alonzo Mourning Triumphs Over Prostate Cancer, Advocates for Early Detection

Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame center Alonzo Mourning recently revealed that he underwent surgery to remove his prostate following a diagnosis of Stage 3 prostate cancer. In an interview with ESPN, Mourning shared that additional testing confirmed the cancer had not spread beyond his prostate capsule. Thanks to a mid-March procedure, Mourning is now cancer-free.

A seven-time All-Star, NBA champion, and Olympic gold medalist, Mourning emphasized the crucial role routine prostate cancer screening played in the timely discovery and treatment of his condition. According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer claims the lives of 1 in 44 men in the United States. This statistic, coupled with Mourning’s personal experience, has fueled his determination to advocate for at-risk men, particularly those 45 years and older, to undergo regular PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood tests. High-risk groups include Black men and those with a family history of prostate cancer, while most men are advised to start screening at age 50.

“What scares me about this disease is that there are so many men walking around feeling great and have that cancer in them and they don’t know it,” Mourning told ESPN. “The only way to find out is to get their blood tested and get their PSA checked. There are 3.3 million men living in the U.S. with prostate cancer, and many don’t even know it. I was one of those guys.”

Mourning, known for his resilience on and off the court, recounted how a conversation at a social event three years ago prompted him to begin regular visits to a urologist in South Florida. With a family history of prostate cancer, including his father and grandfather, Mourning was aware of his increased vulnerability.

In late 2022, Mourning’s urologist, Dr. Maury Jayson, alerted him to rising PSA scores, a potential warning sign of prostate cancer. An MRI revealed some suspicious “shadows,” leading to a biopsy on February 23. The results indicated a Gleason score of eight, reflecting a high grade of prostate cancer.

Dr. Sanoj Punnen, a urologic oncologist at the University of Miami, recommended a PET scan to determine if the cancer had spread. Mourning described the anxiety he felt waiting for the results. “My partner, Mariona, is waiting for me outside the PET scan, and we are nervous as hell. I’m sitting in the machine with my arms over my head and my mind racing—waiting for the technician to read the scan. We ended up in a cold waiting room waiting for the tech to come in and finally he looks at us and says he’s got good news: The cancer is still in the [prostate] capsule and hasn’t spread.”

Mourning, who has been part of the Miami Heat’s front office as director of player programs and development since his retirement in 2008, underwent a successful prostate removal procedure with Dr. Vipul Patel in Orlando in March. This timely intervention ensured the removal of the cancer before it could spread beyond the prostate capsule.

According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year relative survival rate for localized and regionalized prostate cancer is 99%. Prostate cancer remains the second-leading cause of cancer among men in the United States.

“Life was good and amazing for me, but if I had ignored getting checked and let this go, the cancer would’ve spread through my body,” Mourning said. “Unfortunately, as men, we don’t like to go to the doctor, but this is the only way to find out what’s going on in your body. Prostate and even colon cancer are silent killers, and many men won’t get those diagnoses until it’s too late.

“We live in a world where it’s taboo among men to talk about health issues. If I didn’t get routine checkups, I probably wouldn’t be here to talk about this. I want men to be proactive with their health.”

For more information on prostate cancer screening and treatment, visit the American Cancer Society’s website.

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