At least 46% of ethnic minorities are unfamiliar or not sure about the signs and symptoms of the various forms of cancer or how to reduce their cancer risk even though 61% have had a family member suffer from cancer1. These figures are alarming because studies examining specific cancers and ethnic groups have shown that African Caribbean men are three times more likely to develop prostate cancer than white men2 and that mouth cancer is more common amongst South Asian and Chinese communities3.
Quite a high number of ethnic minority women (78%) are aware of the NHS breast cancer screening programme1, however research has shown that 45% of black ethnic minority women of screening age (50-70) have never attended a screening of which 76% said it was because they had never been invited4. Only 22% of those questioned are aware of the NHS bowel cancer screening programme1 despite this form of cancer being the second most common cause of cancer death in the UK. If diagnosed at the earliest stage, bowel cancer is highly treatable with an estimated 83% survival rate5.
Ethnic Minority Cancer Awareness Week (6th – 12th July 2009) was launched last year by Cancer Equality in partnership with an alliance of leading cancer charities who have united to deliver a week of events to raise cancer awareness and improve access to services amongst ethnic minorities.
Jennifer Layburn, Chair of the alliance said: “Cancer awareness is important for everyone, however as these figures show, there is a need to reach ethnic minority communities with targeted awareness messages to increase the levels of awareness and early diagnosis to help reduce the inequalities that exist in survival and mortality figures”.
Other findings from the survey indicate that a lack of written information, language and a shortage of culturally appropriate and sensitive information may be contributing to this low level of awareness.
Jennifer added: “We are in a slightly better position this year in that we have some data that was recently published by the National Cancer Intelligence Network, which gives us a bit more insight into ethnic minority cancer incidences. However, there is still clearly a lot more that can be done around the recording of cancer incidence, mortality and survival in British ethnic minority groups as this will lead to a better understanding of their needs and the development of appropriate services to meet these needs.”