by Sarah Lines
We know that Black men have a higher risk of prostate cancer and that men living in less wealthy areas are more likely to die from the disease. Now, two pilot projects we’ve carried out in these communities have revealed that many men are in the dark about the risk they face. Not only that, even when men did know that they were at higher risk, they still said that wouldn’t be enough to prompt them to speak to their GP.
The pilots took place in Manchester and Hartlepool. In Manchester we aimed to raise awareness of prostate cancer within the Black community and in Hartlepool we ran a pilot with local businesses to test a new awareness tool on working class men.
Both pilots revealed a shocking lack of knowledge about prostate cancer among our target audiences, showing that:
In Manchester we partnered with the Black Health Agency (BHA) and attended and organised awareness events and drives within Black communities. We hoped that by partnering with an established organisation which was already well recognised in the Black community we would be able to have a greater reach than if we tried to engage men by ourselves.
With the help of the BHA we visited three health and well-being events where we invited Black men to engage directly with cancer specialists. We also partnered with local voluntary organisations to hold a series of community events; targeted members of the Black community in community hubs like leisure centres, barber shops and supermarkets and organised a survey at the Manchester Caribbean Carnival.
At all of these events and awareness sessions we gave men and women the opportunity to talk, share opinions and understand what’s involved in testing for prostate cancer, types of treatment available and how sometimes deep rooted cultural barriers and hearsay can impact on life expectancy. Including cancer specialists gave those attending an opportunity to find information on prostate cancer treatment as well as current research and clinical trials.
Life expectancy for men in the Hartlepool area is 11.3 years lower than the UK average, and the mortality rate from cancer in the under 75s is also significantly worse.
In Hartlepool we worked with local volunteers, businesses and health professionals to test a new ‘risk tool’ through sessions in work places and community hubs. We chose Hartlepool as the life expectancy for men in this area is 11.3 years lower than the UK average, and the mortality rate in the under 75s from cancer is also significantly worse.
The risk tool was a pack, which included a scratch card, a risk factor card and information on what to expect when talking to their GP or Nurse. The scratch card was based on risk, and men could mark if they were Black, above 50 or had a brother or father who had prostate cancer (all of which increase risk of prostate cancer). We wanted to test whether these interactive elements were more effective at raising awareness than our existing ‘Know your prostate’ guides. So half the men were given the risk tool and the other half were given the ‘Know your prostate guide’. Men were talked through how to use the tool or the guide and both groups were given an experience survey to complete.
In both cases we hoped that by raising awareness of prostate cancer, its signs, risk factors and how to get help, more men would understand the risk they face and more men would visit their GP or nurse.
Ultimately the aim was that more men would be diagnosed earlier and that the numbers of men surviving prostate cancer in both communities would go up.
As we’ve said, both our pilots confirmed that awareness of prostate cancer among both groups was low. And the other big discovery was that even when men knew their personal risk of developing prostate cancer was high, this wasn’t enough to make them go and speak to their GP. So we may need to rethink the messaging around signs, symptoms and risks of prostate cancer.
We also found that women played an important part in both communities in encouraging men to pay attention to their health and visit their GP. And in general we were able to reach more men and messages were better received when we worked with existing members of the community.
The results of both pilots are still being analysed to find out the full impact of all the work we did in these areas. But it’s clear that there’s still a lot more that needs to be done to help more of the men at highest risk of developing and dying of prostate cancer to survive the disease. And, while we may need to rethink the way we talk about it, these pilots have shown that working with other organisations and people who are already established in the community is a good way forward.