I want you to ask the Black men in your life to get checked for prostate cancer

One in four Black men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

‘I didn’t know there was such a simple test’.

It’s something I’ve heard often from my constituents who have been affected or lost loved ones to prostate cancer. It hurts every time to know that as a society we have so little knowledge about a disease so prevalent.

I have found it so important to listen to people’s stories, provide support for those living with it and celebrate the lives of those we have sadly lost.

It is all very emotional and I am determined that we must do more. I want to do my bit to make a difference and bring about change.

So when I watched Embarrassed – the short film about prostate cancer made by Sir Steve McQueen – it spurred me on even more to speak about this issue.

The film aims to dispel the myths around prostate cancer – encouraging Black men to ask their doctors for a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test, while also spreading the message between family and friends: the cancer is curable if caught and treated in the very early stages. https://www.youtube.com/embed/4CIpWBpAC28?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en-US&autohide=2&wmode=transparent

This is such an important message for us all. I know Steve, and I know that this issue is important for him as his father sadly passed away from the disease. His fantastic video will help to save lives.  

As you will see, it’s a highly impactful short, starring four prominent Black actors: Idris Elba OBE, Chiwetel Ejiofor CBA, Michael Ward and Morgan Freeman. 

I completely support this vital campaign to raise awareness for this terrible disease. I encourage everyone to take note of its important message: embarrassment cannot get in the way of saving someone’s life. 

When I watched the film, it made me think of relatives and friends. I have known people who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, which also affected me greatly. It’s a truly awful disease.

Many people will be shocked to learn that one in four Black men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. This compares with one in eight white men, who will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and one in 14 Asian men. 

In terms of lifetime risk, one in 12 Black men will die from the disease, compared with 1 in 24 White men who will die from the disease, and 1 in 44 Asian men who will die from the disease.  

Shockingly, Black men have a 50% higher chance of losing their lives to prostate cancer than white men. 

These are heart-breaking figures. Prostate cancer can affect any man, which is very worrying. Every single life is important, and I feel as though there is much more we can do to raise awareness, catch it early and save as many lives as possible. 

The truth is if we get this right for Black men, we will get this right for all men.  

As Morgan Freeman sadly points out in the video, this could be your dad, brother or grandfather. We must therefore normalise having a conversation about prostate cancer, to ensure that no one is too embarrassed that they avoid speaking to a doctor about it. 

Shockingly, Black men have a 50% higher chance of losing their lives to prostate cancer than white men

It is vitally important that all our communities, from all backgrounds, are aware of the risk of prostate cancer as it can affect all men. I have always said that no one is safe until everyone is safe.  

However, statistics show a heightened risk for Black men and I therefore applaud this video, to help spread this targeted message for Black men and dissolve the stigma surrounding the disease.

One of the goals of the campaign is to encourage the British Government and health authorities to change current protocols to allow automatic PSA testing of Black men aged 45 and over, as this is a higher-risk demographic. This would mean men who fit that higher risk category, including all men with family history of prostate cancer, proactively get offered a PSA test – a blood test used primarily to screen for prostate cancer.  

I have written to the Government outlining my concerns about prostate cancer, informing them of this amazing campaign and its vital goals. I hope they will join me in raising awareness, as this is too important not to. There is nothing more important than health. 

I would like to see the Government put extra resources into raising awareness and encouraging people to talk about the issue with people in their lives, and to get tests when they are available.  

Readers can help spread the word about this incredible campaign and its vital goals by asking loved ones the question ‘have you been checked?’ – it could truly save someone’s life. 

This is the lesson that I have taken from the film – to have those difficult conversations with people and to spread the word about this campaign. I have four brothers and I have asked them to get tested, it’s quick and simple and can save their lives.

I’m really proud that Brent hosted a ‘walk and talk’ initiative last year to raise awareness about the disease, organised by The Errol McKellar Foundation, which is run by Black men who understand the importance of testing and supported by Jamaica National.

And I am so thankful to Sir Steve McQueen, Patrick Cox and all those who made this video. Let’s all come together to support this cause and help save lives.

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