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Prostate cancer battle goes to parliament

URGENT MESSAGE: David Lammy with Rose Thompson

A NEW report launched in Parliament has recommended that all black, aged 45 and upwards, be targeted for annual prostate cancer screenings as part of a vigorous thrust to reverse "a major health inequality".

Leading experts in prostate cancer care met earlier this month with community groups, public health representatives and cancer survivors at the House of Commons launch led by MP David Lammy.

Lammy is championing the message in the second Hear Me Now: One Year On report by Rose Thompson, director of BME Cancer Communities, that funding must be found urgently to screen African and Caribbean men who are twice as likely to develop prostate cancer as white men, while also developing it earlier.

Thompson, a radiotherapy radiographer qualified to superintendent grade, spent the last year visiting community groups in London, Leeds, Birmingham and Nottingham to draw up an action plan "to address the burden" of prostate cancer in this ethnic group.

And to those who wanted to help, Thompson had one clear message: organise a 100,000-name petition to make sure every GP in Britain has a register of black African and Caribbean men and records all the test results.
She said: “We all know it takes ages to get a man to a GP, let alone a black man, but we need to be raising awareness with organisations wherever we can.”

Lammy, who called Thompson "a treasure" for taking the lead on this crusade, said: “In order to save lives and improve outcomes, it is crucial that men at higher risk are identified earlier, and that the challenges outlined to address this in this report are tackled without delay.”

He stressed it was not a report ‘to sit on the shelf’as recognised by the fact that Parliament had taken the rare step of hosting a ‘one year on’ follow up to the first Hear Me Now report in February 2013.

Both reports have been commissioned by Janssen, a pharmaceutical company of Johnson & Johnson.

Lammy also praised the many community groups who had made sure the campaign was not London-centric. He said: “It’s more like election night here with so many people from across the UK.”

One group from the Nottingham-based Friends and Bredrins included 57 men who had direct experience with prostate cancer, which accounts for 42 per cent of all cancers diagnosed in black men.

Dr Frank Chinegwundoh, a consultant urologist at Barts Health NHS Trust in London, who has led an award-winning community-based prostate drop-in clinic, said he was shocked at the lack of data on prostate cancer in black men.

He urged that all black men should have a PSA test (prostate specific antigen) at 40, and followed up with annual screenings from 45 years onwards. But he also said that his GP colleagues needed to be educated about the need for black men to be tested earlier.

Prostate cancer survivor Bishop Melvin Brooks, a senior pastor at the New Jerusalem Apostolic Church in Birmingham, brought laughter to the launch with a warning for those who could die as a result of refusing to be tested.
“Some young dude could end up in your house, wearing your slippers and sleeping with your beautiful wife,” he warned. “Fight to live and live for your wife and kids - there is no shame in being tested.”

Widow Cynthia Dwyer spoke movingly about her husband’s GP failure to examine him or do a PSA test even though he showed the symptoms of early prostate cancer for three years.

“We cannot sit on our laurels any longer. Enough is enough,” she said.

Desmond Jaddoo, who chaired the Birmingham’s community group meeting four months ago that came up with a number of action plan recommendations, said: “Why is it that black people are always sidelined? It smacks of racial discrimination yet again – our fathers and brothers are dying and so little is being done.”

Kate Phipps, CEO of the Birmingham-based John Taylor Hospice, told the launch of the hospice’s new crowd sharing campaign to raise money to buy a taboo-busting model black bottom to get men talking about prostate cancer.

The Hear Me Now report has been praised by Prostate Cancer UK. Heather Blake, director of services at the charity, said: “Collaboration is crucial in order to address this issue head on and we will continue to work with the black community, commissioners and policy makers and explore ways to improve outcomes for black men.

“We also urge black men not to ignore their risk, but to confront it by speaking to their wife, partner or friends, and consulting their GP as to whether a test is the right thing for them.”

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