‘Brother to Brother, Man to Man’: prostate cancer support group for black men

Kit Heren (20 May, 2022)

'Men generally might be embarrassed to go to their doctor about this but it is even more of a taboo amongst black men'

55545Patient Brian Quavar (left), Nurse Jonah Rusere (right)

A prostate cancer support group has been set up dedicated specifically for black men – one in four of whom will get the disease.

That makes it twice as common than in the population as a whole. Guy’s Cancer and South East London Cancer Alliance set up Brother to Brother, Man to Man for black men after not seeing many in existing support groups.

Jonah Rusere, a nurse practitioner at Guy’s and St Thomas’ in this field, said: “When we started asking why, the feedback we got from our black patients was about the importance of being able to talk to patients from similar communities going though similar experiences.”

Tube driver Brian Quavar, 59, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in July 2021 and joined the group after being told about it by Jonah. He said: “Men generally might be embarrassed to go to their doctor about this but it is even more of a taboo amongst black men. You will hear some say that what they don’t know can’t hurt them.

“There’s also this notion that black men are supposed to be virile in terms of their sexuality. They feel it’s something they have to live up to and any interference with that area is going to affect their performance. So to be able to have a group of black men speaking honestly about the experience and how it’s affected them and the issues they face is enlightening.

“The group is somewhere black men can feel comfortable to share and talk openly about their experiences in a way that’s respectful and supportive of each other. You find out what to expect because there are people at different stages of their recovery. I’m able to share my experience and be a support and inspiration to other men who are just beginning their journey.”

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Black men may also be more likely to get prostate cancer if their father or brother has had it.

Amelia Barber, a prostate cancer clinical nurse specialist at Guy’s and St Thomas’, said: “It’s not uncommon for a black man to be diagnosed with prostate cancer and not tell his family because the stigma is so great. But if you don’t tell your son, who will be at increased risk of prostate cancer, then he can’t start testing to catch it earlier.

“So a lot of the guys in the group are really keen on awareness raising and are very courageously starting to talk about this kind of stuff in their community centres, barbershops and with family members.”

The prostate is a small gland between the penis and the bladder. The first test for prostate cancer is a simple blood test called a PSA test. A rectal examination will only follow if necessary.

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Father of four Brian is raising awareness of prostate cancer outside of the group as well. He said: “Any time I speak with other black men I mention it. I say ‘when was the last time you had a PSA test?’ If they haven’t had one I encourage them to get one.

“A lot of people still think the first or only test for prostate cancer is the digital rectal exam which a lot of men are reluctant to have. So I tell them the PSA test is just a blood test and the rectal examination will follow only if it’s necessary.”

You can check your risk with Prostate Cancer UK’s online risk checker. 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.

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