Comment

Dad’s death from prostate cancer has made me determined to raise awareness

Chief nurse Karen Bonner wants to help find out why black men are twice as likely to develop prostate cancer as other men

Chief nurse Karen Bonner wants to help find out why black men are twice as likely to develop prostate cancer as other men

It came as a huge shock when my dad, Egbert, was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in 2010.

Although he remained remarkably relaxed about his diagnosis, I found the situation hard to deal with. Like many healthcare professionals, I felt torn between the professional and personal parts of myself.

As a nurse, I wanted to make sure my dad was receiving the right treatment and the best possible care. But as his daughter, I was devastated at the thought of losing him.

The PROFILE study is the first of its kind in the UK to look at the genes

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Chief nurse Karen Bonner wants to help find out why black men are twice as likely to develop prostate cancer as other men

Picture shows two men looking at at Know Your Prostate leaflet raising awareness of prostate cancer
Picture: Christopher Woods

It came as a huge shock when my dad, Egbert, was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in 2010.

Although he remained remarkably relaxed about his diagnosis, I found the situation hard to deal with. Like many healthcare professionals, I felt torn between the professional and personal parts of myself.

As a nurse, I wanted to make sure my dad was receiving the right treatment and the best possible care. But as his daughter, I was devastated at the thought of losing him.

‘The PROFILE study is the first of its kind in the UK to look at the genes of men of African and Caribbean descent to predict prostate cancer risk’

Karen Bonner

Less than four years later, my dad died. It was one of the hardest experiences of my life, but one that’s made me determined to raise awareness of prostate cancer.

Why are black men at higher risk of developing prostate cancer?

My dad’s age and ethnicity put him at a higher risk of developing prostate cancer. Black men are twice as likely to develop prostate cancer as other men, but we still don’t know why this is.

The PROFILE study is the first of its kind in the UK to look at the genes of men of African and Caribbean descent to predict prostate cancer risk.

Researchers hope the study will identify why certain men are more likely to get prostate cancer and help develop better tests and treatments that could save the lives of men like my dad.

That’s why I’m encouraging people to spread the word and get involved. If you’re a black man aged between 49-60, you may be suitable to take part.

PROFILE research study needs black male participants

Funded by Prostate Cancer UK in partnership with Movember, the UK’s PROFILE study will look at the genes of men of African and Caribbean descent to see if they can learn to predict prostate cancer risk, and find better ways of diagnosing and treating the disease.

To participate in the study, you should be:

  • Male, aged 40-69 years
  • Of African or Caribbean descent, and both parents and all four grandparents should also be from the same background
  • Prostate cancer-free when entering the study
  • Able to travel to The Royal Marsden in Chelsea or Sutton for initial assessment and for follow-up tests. All travel expenses will be reimbursed

To sign up to the PROFILE study, speak to a member of the research team by emailing prostate.research@rmh.nhs.uk or call 020 8722 4483.

Talking about risks and breaking down the stigma

Although awareness of prostate cancer is improving, for many men – especially black men – it can be a difficult subject to talk about.

Whether that’s because of the location of the prostate, or the prospect of having a digital rectal exam, there are still myths and stigma to break down.

‘It’s tough to lose a loved one in any circumstance, but for nurses it can be especially difficult’

Karen Bonner

Nurses can make a difference by speaking to men about their risk, not just patients, but friends and family too. My advice would be to:

Pick the right moment. Think about setting and context, not every interaction will be the right time to discuss prostate cancer risk.

Nurses can make a difference by speaking to men about their prostate cancer risk
Picture: iStock

Listen to concerns. Some men will be informed about prostate cancer and proactively raise their concerns. It’s important to listen to men in these moments and, if relevant, discuss the pros and cons of a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood test to screen for prostate cancer.

Share Prostate Cancer UK’s risk checker. In just 30 seconds this online tool helps men understand their risk and the next steps to take.

Honouring my dad by encouraging conversations about prostate cancer

I am proud to be honouring my dad by raising awareness of prostate cancer. But I can’t pretend it’s been easy.

It’s tough to lose a loved one in any circumstance, but for nurses it can be especially difficult.

Nurses are so absorbed in the care of our patients that we often forget to extend that kindness and compassion to ourselves.

To anyone who may be going through something similar, it’s okay to take some time out, to go for a walk, or to ask a colleague to see a patient on your behalf.

Remember that your colleagues are there to support you and, most importantly, remember to be kind to yourself.

Find out more

Prostate Cancer UK – PROFILE study


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