Founded in 2003, the Prostate Health Education Network (PHEN) has long advocated the importance of education in eliminating African-American disparity in prostate cancer. That’s because, despite ongoing improvement in cancer care, African-American men still have a mortality rate 2.3 times higher than white American men.1
With September being national Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, the group is taking the opportunity to improve on this statistic. It’s a month when PHEN, among a number of other activities, hosts its African-American Prostate Cancer Disparity Summit to try and improve awareness and education about the disease among African-American communities.
With leaders in medicine, research, government and the community in attendance, the Summit has led to major breakthroughs in African-American prostate cancer awareness, such as the 2011/2012 Senate Resolution 529 – a resolution originally presented at the Summit by US Secretary of State John Kerry. It recognized that the occurrence of prostate cancer in African-American men had reached epidemic proportions and urged Federal agencies to support education, awareness outreach and clinical research to address it.
This year’s two-day Summit will continue to break awareness boundaries, hosting sessions on new prostate cancer therapies, the progress of its national ‘Clinical Trials Rally’, and faith-based education and awareness activities.
Increasing African-American participation in clinical trials
Another core activity of the group is its Prostate Health Education Symposium series. From April to June, the Network has completed 12 symposia in nine states and is planning another 13 to be completed through to November this year.
Free for the public to attend, the symposia focus on some of the key issues in prostate health: screening, treatment, side effects, advanced disease and caregiving issues, among many others. They are open for healthy men as well as those with prostate cancer, caregivers and family members.
“The symposiums are a cornerstone of our efforts to increase knowledge and awareness for black men who have the highest prostate cancer incidence and mortality rates of all men in the United States,” says Thomas Farrington, PHEN president and founder.
This year’s symposia are specifically focused on clinical trials in an attempt to raise African-American participation.
The first half of each symposium is dedicated to educating men as much as possible about prostate cancer, including providing any new updates the community needs to know about. The second half is specifically aimed at educating about different clinical trials and treatments that are out there.
Jerry George, Program Assistant at PHEN told Change Together: “The symposia are important in making African-American men realize that clinical trials are a form of care. The first half of each symposium is dedicated to educating men as much as we can about prostate cancer and any new updates they need to know about, while the second half is about educating about different clinical trials and treatments that are out there.”
With the help of panel sessions carried out in local churches, the symposia are doing their job so far. According to evaluation surveys given out by the Network during the symposia, 94% of attendees said they better understood clinical trials, 84% had a better understanding of the potential benefits of them, and 62% said they would consider participation in a future trial.
The importance of education
Of course, with the mantra of ‘knowledge is the best defense against prostate cancer’, the core to PHEN’s efforts lies in improving education – something, according to George, that will be the key to eliminating the prostate cancer disparity in African-American communities.
“Education and expanding that knowledge of prostate cancer is so important, whether it’s someone with the disease, or someone caring for them,” says George. “That’s why we focus on education and advocacy. The more education we can get out there, the more lives we can save.”
- National Cancer Institute (2012). SEER Cancer Statistics Review 1975–2012. Available from: http://seer.cancer.gov/csr/1975_2013/results_merged/sect_23_prostate.pdf (accessed August 2017).