Black men with prostate cancer and local students get creative to encourage conversations about cancer

Published on: 12 June 2023
  • The cultural taboos and misconceptions around prostate cancer in these communities can prevent Black men from being diagnosed and treated early.

Black men with prostate cancer, living in south east London, have teamed up with students at the London College of Communication to develop a series of thought-provoking animations to encourage conversations about the disease.

The animations are narrated by the patients who have shared their experience of being diagnosed with prostate cancer. The individuals spoke about their experience of testing, fears of prostate cancer and attitudes towards cancer screening in the Black community.

The series aims to support Black communities to have open conversations about the risk of Black men developing prostate cancer and the importance of getting tested.

In the UK, one in eight men will get prostate cancer. However, it’s even more common in Black men - with one in four being diagnosed with the condition in their lifetime.

The animations address this health disparity by highlighting cancer myths and cultural taboos that can prevent Black men from speaking to their GP about their risk of prostate cancer and getting diagnosed early.

The NHS recommends that Black men over the age of 45 speak to their GP about their risk of prostate cancer, even if people are not experiencing symptoms.

The animations were commissioned and funded by the South East London Cancer Alliance (SELCA), in collaboration with the London College of Communication and Partnership Southwark. The project forms part of a wider programme of work in south east London to improve early diagnosis in cancer and patients’ experience of care.

The students were given access to patient interviews that were recorded by SELCA and the charity Macmillan Cancer Support. The students at the London College of Communication developed the animations based on these testimonials.

To coincide with Men’s Health Week (June 12 to June 18), the South East London Cancer Alliance and the London College of Communications are encouraging Black men to discuss the increased risk they face with friends or family members and speak to their GP.


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Healthcare professionals, community centres and barbershops across south east London and beyond are also being asked to share the animations and encourage Black men to speak to their GP about their risk of prostate cancer, even if they don't have any symptoms. The animations can be viewed here: Let's talk about prostate cancer - YouTube

South east London resident Evan Russell was diagnosed with prostate cancer five years ago and shares his experiences in the animations. Evan – who is in his 70s – has spoken about his involvement in the project and why it’s important for Black communities to talk about cancer and said: “After my diagnosis, I felt it was important to use my experience to help dispel the myths about prostate cancer and support those affected by the condition.

“I recently visited my local barbershop and spoke with Black men who said they wouldn’t get tested. They believed that their only option was to have a prostate biopsy – which is invasive – but there are other tests that can diagnose prostate cancer. That’s why it’s important to speak to your GP and discuss your options.

“In the Black community, cancer is considered a taboo subject. We don’t want to think about it, let alone discuss it - but cancer is something that all generations need to get familiar with.

“It’s important that we take responsibility for our health and work with the doctors because if it’s caught early, the treatment is likely to be more successful and you can continue to be around for those you love.”

Jannike Nordlund, Patient Experience Lead at the South East London Cancer Alliance, said: “We know from speaking to our patients that it’s not uncommon for a black man to be diagnosed with prostate cancer and not tell his friends or family because of the fear and stigma around cancer. But if you don't tell your son or brother, who will be at increased risk of prostate cancer, then they can't start testing to catch it earlier.

“We need more men – particularly Black men over the age of 45 - to understand their risk and discuss this with their GP, particularly if they have a family member who has had the condition, as prostate cancer doesn’t always show any symptoms in its early stages.”

Kat Wesley, Strategic Partnerships Manager at London College of Communication, added: “The College is a long-standing part of the Southwark community, contributing both through our creative education programmes and strong links with local schools and organisations. Our students have a significant role to play in supporting local initiatives, in this case honing their creative skills while supporting an important cause in the community.”

If you are a Black man over 45 it's recommended you speak to your GP about your risk of prostate cancer, even if you don't have any symptoms. Men can also check their risk with Prostate Cancer UK's online risk checker.

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