What are the facts?
Prostate cancer mortality rates for men born in West Africa and the West Indies living in the UK are 2-3 times higher than the overall population of the UK. Furthermore, black men are more likely to develop prostate cancer at a younger age.
Prostate cancer appears to progress more rapidly in black men and death rates from prostate cancer are 30% higher in black men than white men living in the UK (Macmillan)
How do I check for prostate cancer?
Every black man over the age of 45 is eligible for the blood test, or PSA test (prostate specific antigen) from their GP. You just need to request one from your own GP, even if you show no urinary symptoms and talk about it with them. A raised PSA (above 3 units) does not mean that there is prostate cancer. There may be other reasons for why a PSA may be raised.
In most cases, prostate cancer caught in its early and curable stage does not present with symptoms which is why it is so important to have an initial blood test. Some men will have urinary symptoms - see symptoms check below, but far more common is an enlarged prostate gland that occurs as men age. Therefore, any symptoms must be checked out by a health professional.
Are there increased risks of prostate cancer?
It is essential that black men understand their risk of developing prostate cancer, especially if you are over 45 years old or even younger if someone in the family has had prostate cancer. The cure rate is very high when the disease is found early.
But prostate cancer can run in families and if your relative, father or brother has had it, your risk is doubled. A family history of prostate cancer is a reason for asking for a PSA blood test.
Some early prostate signs can include:
needing to pee more frequently, often during the night
needing to rush to the toilet
difficulty in starting to pee (hesitancy)
straining or taking a long time to pee
a feeling that your bladder has not emptied properly
a painful or burning sensation during peeing
Action to take:
There isn't a screening programme currently for this type of cancer and the best action is to self refer to your local GP if you experience any of the symptoms.
A Digital Rectal Exam (DRE) will be carried out by your GP to find any changes in your prostate. They insert a finger into the rectum to feel around for bumps or hard spots on the prostate, as these could indicate cancer. If a rectal exam is declined, a PSA test will help to identify aggressive prostate cancer that needs treatment, but it can also find slow-growing cancer that may never cause symptoms or shorten life.
Any suspicion of prostate cancer, due to an abnormal blood PSA or an abnormal rectal exam will lead to an urgent referral to see and urologist. Further tests can include an MRI scan and a biopsy of the prostate gland. Read more here.
15% of men with prostate cancer have normal PSA levels (a false-negative result), so many cases may be missed. Most men are now offered an MRI scan before a biopsy to help avoid unnecessary tests.
Treating prostate cancer in its early stages can be beneficial in some cases, but the side effects of some of the treatments are potentially so serious that men may choose to delay treatment until it's absolutely necessary.
Visit here for treatment of prostate cancer.
Practical and emotional support
A study carried out by Macmillan revealed that black men with prostate cancer were less likely to ask healthcare professionals about their treatment and diagnosed condition. It can be extremely daunting and scary, being told that you have early stage cancer, but if you can be accompanied by a partner, close friend or relative when you attend hospital, this extra support can help you in asking the right questions and help filling in forms.
Visit our cancer toolkit