Gary Hallberg had somewhere to go Saturday morning. Namely, the first tee of the Greystone Golf & Country Club, where he’s competing in the Regions Tradition.
But first things first, he wanted to stop by a tent adjacent to the driving range, where medical staff from the University of Alabama in Birmingham and the Mike Slive Foundation were conducting free prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests for men over 40 to screen for prostate cancer.
For Hallberg, it was personal.
“I was 45 when my doctor said, ‘I’ve been watching your PSA for 10 years’ – I didn’t even know what that was,” Hallberg recalled the conversation that came out of the blue. Especially the next part when his physician added, “’Maybe you need a biopsy.’”
Now 64, the 1980 PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year is a 10-year prostate cancer survivor, thanks to his medical provider’s early, initial screening. When he learned of the Slive Foundation’s efforts at the Tradition, he wanted to offer his support.
“Unlike other forms of cancer, like breast cancer, the prostate has a (protective) case,” Hallberg said. “So, if you catch it early, you’re most likely going to be OK.”
Hallberg started with routine screenings, beginning at the age of 45, surgery a decade later and has an upcoming MRI-CAT test to make sure there’s no recurrence.
“They inject you with radioactive material,” Hallberg explained. “I asked if that would help me hit the ball longer, but they said, ‘no.’”
The Mike Slive Foundation is the brainchild and namesake of the late Southeastern Conference commissioner, one of college athletics most respected power brokers. For the second straight year, the Mike Slive Foundation teamed with professionals from UAB to provide free screening to Regions Tradition visitors.
That caught Rusty Sears’ eye.
“My wife and I are here to enjoy golf, but when I saw the sign for the screenings I came in here,” Sears explained. “My dad had prostate cancer, and my brother had it, so I had good reasons to get this done. And it was so easy. The entire process took, maybe, five minutes. But the actual blood work took two.”
Yes, it’s that easy.
After getting your basic information – and a way to contact you for any follow-up – a technician draws blood in a manner of a few minutes.
Easy. Relatively painless.
“This test is important, because one in eight men in their lifetime will receive a prostate cancer diagnosis,” explained Emily Capilouto, the director of education and outreach for the Mike Slive Foundation.
Family history and other factors can increase the odds. African American men, for instance, are twice as likely to face a prostate cancer diagnosis.
“But the good news is that prostate cancer, when caught early, is nearly 100 percent treatable,” Capilouto added.
UAB urological oncologist Dr. Soroush Rais-Bahrami joined the Mike Slive Foundation team to help spread the word during the third round of the Regions Tradition.
“We’re lucky to have a great screening tool in the blood test,” Rais-Bahrami said. “Early detection and risk stratification are huge keys. I just wish we had a simple blood test for all cancers.”
Giving his wife a thumb’s up as he finished his quick test, Rusty Sears smiled.
“This screening was an unexpected bonus,” Sears said. “Now, we’ve got a great day of golf ahead of us.”
So, too, Gary Hallberg. After visiting in the tent, he took a few minutes on the driving range before embarking on his third round of Tradition competition.
“Being here today helps me personally – and a little selfishly – because I’ve been through this,” Hallberg said.
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