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New Year vow on prostate cancer

AWARENESS CAMPAIGN: (from left) Desmond Jaddoo; Dr Vivienne Lyfar-Cisse; Rose Thompson, and Mashuq Ally, of Birmingham City Council

BLACK MEN are being urged to adopt the mantra: ‘IF YOU are a black male over 40, get checked annually’ – as advocates and health authorities commence a new year crusade about prostate cancer.

News of the high risk of prostate cancer among African Caribbean men is nothing new, but it has been brought into sharp focus in a detailed report launched last year by Rose Thompson, director of BME Cancer Communities, a social enterprise addressing cancer inequalities within black and minority ethnic (BME) and low income communities.

Thompson is the author of Hear Me Now which documents the uncomfortable reality of prostate cancer in African Caribbean men.
This evidence-based report was inspired by the unacceptably high rates of death from prostate cancer by black men and calls upon policy makers, health professionals and community activists to raise awareness.

Thompson, a softly spoken but determined campaigner, spent last year touring the UK - from London to Leeds - making sure that the alarming news about the statistics gets out to these communities.

British black men are three times more likely to develop prostate cancer and are more likely to be affected by it at a younger age. The death rate in black men is also 30 per cent higher than their white counterparts.

But what Thompson found was a shockingly incomplete set of data in the UK, due to the inconsistency of ethnic data collection in the NHS over many years.

Speaking at a Hear Me Now seminar in Birmingham, Thompson said: “There needs to be more clarity – from GPs being better educated about prostate cancer, to the families themselves. And we need to make sure the community is empowered with this knowledge to ensure more positive outcomes.”

Thompson is keen to see a national prostate cancer screening programme similar to the current breast, bowel and cervical cancer tests. This is something she will be pushing at Hear Me Now II in March when the second phase of her campaign is launched in Parliament. The first stage was launched in Parliament in February 2013.

Meanwhile, stories abound of prostate cancer going undiagnosed and the resulting tragedy of delayed diagnosis are alarming.

Cynthia Dwyer, from Leamington Spa, who spoke at the Birmingham seminar, shared how her husband Hugh died of the disease in 2010.

Despite having symptoms akin to early prostate cancer, she explained that he was not given a rectal examination or a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test by his GP.

After changing his GP, Hugh was eventually seen by a cancer specialist who administered hormone treatment, but it all came too late.

In accordance with his wishes, Cynthia set up the Hugh Dwyer Inspirational Foundation in 2011, to raise awareness of the effects of prostate cancer.

Other examples were given of African Caribbean men in their 40s who went to their GPs asking for a PSA test, only to be told it wasn’t necessary as they were not old enough to be at risk.

Desmond Jaddoo, who chaired the seminar at Birmingham Town Hall and whose organisation the Birmingham Empowerment Forum is now an official partner with Prostate Cancer UK, said: “Prostate cancer is plaguing the African and Caribbean community, highlighting the clear need for positive action and joined up inter-agency thinking between the local authority, clinicians and importantly the community in tackling this dangerous health inequality.

“The community has to take responsibility in assisting in developing the awareness and dispelling the fears over being tested, as the consequences are seriously affecting our families.”

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