Anthony Henry often hears from Black men with prostate cancer about barriers they face on their cancer journey in Canada. As President of the Walnut Foundation, an organization dedicated to enhancing awareness about prostate cancer in Black men, Henry is no stranger to some of these reported barriers that suggest a lack of awareness of racial disparities and in some cases even systemic anti-Black racism.
“There doesn’t seem to be the sensitivity that Black men are more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer and more likely to die from it,” he says. “In addition, we see that Black men in high-risk groups are not always being encouraged to screen for prostate cancer.”
To address the overall neglect of Black health and fill a gap in research for and among Black men and/or men of West African ancestry, the Walnut Foundation is partnering with a multidisciplinary team of researchers, clinicians, prostate cancer survivors, Black community organizations and the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) on a new CCS Health Equity Research Grant.
Led by Dr Aisha Lofters at Women’s College Hospital and Dr Jacqueline Bender at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, the team is working to better understand systemic and structural barriers to accessing high-quality, innovative prostate cancer care.
“Our goal is to see improved awareness and accurate information about prostate cancer in the Black community,” Lofters says. “Even more so, we want to see an improvement in the quality of care provided by health professionals and make sure they aren’t coming to that encounter with racial stereotypes in mind.”
Research from the United States shows that Black men of African or Caribbean ancestry not only have a higher chance of getting prostate cancer than other racial groups, but they often don’t know about the risks related to family history and late-stage diagnoses. In addition, they are less likely to be offered screening, active surveillance or less invasive treatments.
Lofters and her team are interviewing Black men with prostate cancer and their caregivers across Canada to understand their perspectives and gather evidence on the challenges they face. The team will use their findings to develop tools for clinicians to increase their knowledge of the systemic barriers faced by Black men and their families.
This project is created and conducted in partnership with Black men with prostate cancer, families and community organizations. “This approach is essential to address the systemic factors that sustain health inequities in Canada and ensures the solutions are driven by the lived experiences and needs of Black communities,” says Bender.
Thanks to donor support, CCS is investing $1.6 million in 6 promising projects like this one to identify and test solutions that minimize or remove barriers to equitable cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care.
For Lofters, the Health Equity Research Grants are a crucial step toward centering research on those who are at the margins.
“Often in research we tend to focus on those who already have some power and privilege,” she says. “But this ends up increasing gaps in care and at some point, we have to focus on those who are living and experiencing health inequities every day, and that’s exactly what these grants do.”
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