Prostate cancer is cancer that occurs in the prostate. The prostate is a small walnut-shaped gland in males that produces the seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm. Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer.
With stark statistics of Prostate Cancer affecting 1 in 4 Black men Lou Taylor from Black History Month South is urging Black men over 40yrs old to utilise PSA blood screening tests. With early detection and treatment vastly increasing the chances of survival Lou Taylor is working to spread the word far and wide!
Why do you think prostate cancer is not at the forefront of our community?
First of all, there are a couple of reasons. First and foremost, a lot of Black men feel this is a private thing. Almost because of where the prostate is situated, so it becomes very private and not often discussed. Yet we are always happy to discuss breast cancer and things for women. But this also is very serious.
At least in the UK, it is part of a comedic trope. That thing of getting up in the middle of the night and going to the toilet 3,4 times or more when you get older. It has become part of comedy and so it is something very easy to ignore. Because the symptoms are you have no pain, the only sign is that you need the toilet more often. So, it is easy to put to one side. Also, most men don’t want to go to the doctors for the digital exam. You can have a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and most people don’t know about the PSA, which is a simple blood test. If your PSA is high, it may be an indication you may have an issue. The one thing that I experienced with my doctor, when I first went and requested the PSA, he gave me all the reasons why it was not very accurate and why I probably did not need it. He was a white doctor and I told him the incidence of prostate cancer in Black men is 1 in 4, and he was shocked to hear that. I did not get my test, but I got a letter apologising and asking me to come straight back. I went back, he gave me a test and it was high. I then went for various other investigations. I had an MRI scan, a biopsy and another biopsy under general anaesthetic and it came out negative.
All those tests. My feeling was if this has happened to me and I know I am quite proactive, how many other men out there are presenting late?
I had a conversation with Gale Byrne, the Director of Nursing at University Hospital Southampton just last week and I brought this up with her. She said what they see is Black men coming in presenting with secondary cancers. Those secondary cancers are what they are dealing with. But actually, if they had come in sooner, the primary one was the prostate. Now some forms of prostate cancer are incredibly aggressive. Most men will develop it at some point in their later life, but it is so slow progressing that you will die of something else before it gets anywhere. With the aggressive type, however, it is so aggressive, it can enter your bone marrow, your brain, or your lungs. It’s so quick, and you’re here today and 6 months later, your gone. It can be that fast.
So in answer to your question, Why do I think prostate cancer is not at the forefront of our community? It is very easy to ignore. And with most black men, you don’t pay much attention. And I don’t think that this is unique to Black men; it is men in general, actually.
How have you found the experience of pushing your message to the community and local authorities?
The authorities in Hampshire have been really good. We managed to get Meridian TV who jumped on it in a second to interview (https://bit.ly/32KYFHr). We’ve had really good backing from the local council and The University Hospital and Action Hampshire have been instrumental. The minute I mentioned it to them, they managed to help with funding from Communities Against Cancer and the Wessex Cancer Alliance. All these organisations wanted to get the message out and they see it in their numbers.
Interestingly enough, from the Black community, I have not had a lot of feedback as yet. But it is early days, as we only launched last week. I have had feedback from women interestingly, but I have not heard from men and that speaks volumes to me. I have had a few women email and text to say it is great what I am doing, but I have not heard from the men. But I get it, there is a masculinity attached to it. We would like lots of older men to get a PSA test, but ideally if this message gets heard by those who are now in their 30’s and 40’s, then, it’s in their head. That’s really what it is about! So, in time hopefully, it will be natural for them to talk about it, no different to breast cancer. When breast cancer first came about, I’m sure it was something that was not easily spoken about. Now, it doesn’t carry any stigma: men talk about it, women talk about it. It’s in the public domain; and I think celebrities have got hold of it too. We need some male celebrities, black celebrities. I know a few have, but not loud enough. It needs someone like Morgan Freeman, or Samuel Jackson, would be ideal – even though they are American. We need someone that carries weight.
What was your journey with prostate health?
Diet, nutrition and mainly exercise. I am not great because I like my chocolate and coffee. I did a lot of intermittent fasting for quite some time. I lost quite a bit of weight. I exercised; I didn’t just exercise without thought. I had an enlarged prostate, and I knew a lot of the core exercises that you do, put pressure on the pelvic area. So, I exercised in and around that area, but did not put the same pressure on. I did exercises that don’t necessarily target my core so hard. So I eased off of that and focused on the legs and upper body. I do it purely just to stay healthy.
I then noticed over time my symptoms lessened, which is the first thing I noticed. I could go to the toilet and it was not an issue. I’m not waking up in the middle of the night 3, 4, 5 times running to the toilet and, then, not being able to go. That was the biggest issue. You have this intense urge and then, you can’t go! That is a sure indication that there is something wrong with the prostate gland, because it is blocking the bladder. Over a year and half, it has taken awhile, but my last PSA is now pretty much normal. It’s 3.2 ng/mL and before it was 19. For me, this has been down to diet and targeted exercise.
How do you want your work to change how men perceive prostate cancer?
I would like it to be as common as going to the gym. Going for a PSA test for men over the age of 45 should be standard. It should be pushed by the NHS to men in general. But if you fall into that demographic, you should be going for your PSA test once every 2 years. I have one every quarter. I look after myself physically and I noticed it has tailed down. Even my doctor said “Wow, this is incredible!” It’s almost back to normal. Before, my PSA was so high that they thought I would need proper treatment. They offered me various drugs to ease the symptoms I had, but I was sure if I worked at it, I could bring it down. And here we are, almost back to normal.
How I would like it [prostate cancer] perceived? Something that is insidious but can be solved very quickly, if you pay attention and visit your doctor. And it does not always mean the digital exam, but can be, because with the PSA test – one can lead to the other. If your PSA is high, then, go and get further checks. It’s no big deal and it could save your life!