How African American Men Decide Whether or Not to Get Prostate Cancer Screening

Randy A. Jones, PhD, RN; Richard Steeves, PhD, RN, FAAN; Ishan Williams, PhD


Cancer Nurs. 2009;32(2):166-172. 

In This Article

Family Involvement

The importance of family involvement was another theme that emerged from the data. Most of the men said that having a member of the family involved with health decisions such as prostate cancer screening was important to them. Most trusted their relatives and believed that their family members wanted the men's health to be good. It has been noted elsewhere that African Americans are more likely to seek health advice from informal sources such as family members.[14] These men's relatives helped them place health concerns as a priority. One man said,

She [wife] was in the physician assistant program for awhile, so she played into it.... She does all of her screening and all you know, so she will get behind me every now and then. I feel like I am not doing the best now in getting screened, but I would do even worse than I am now if she didn't actually push like that.

Another man stressed that his sister and daughter played an important part in his decision to have prostate cancer screening because they revealed that his brother had prostate cancer and, therefore, he should get screened. The man thought his susceptibility to prostate cancer was low, but after hearing that his brother had the cancer, his perception changed. He said,

Getting a prostate cancer screening never even fazed me actually. I guess I was running the streets too hard or whatever. It [prostate cancer screening] was the only thing I could think about when my sister called me and told me about my brother. My sister and daughter said "You better go and get tested, your brother has got prostate cancer. Even though he is not dying of it, he still got it."

One man reported that his wife and sister helped him make the decision to get screened by using e-mail. He said,

My wife is involved in the total package of helping me decide to be screened.... I have got my sister who will e-mail me [and my other sisters] some breast cancer information. The females are being affected by that. She will send an e-mail saying "Have you all went? You know I just got mine."

Although numerous individuals said their family members were supportive of screening and helped them make decisions about health concerns, several participants said that their family members did not go to see a physician or other healthcare provider routinely. Reasons included lack of money to pay for healthcare visits, lack of transportation, and the amount of time it took to get to a healthcare provider. One man said,

I am not a person who gets check ups (annual physical exam), and my family is somewhat like I am describing. I am not going unless I have got to go. I mean unless they find something that is wrong with them...but until they find something wrong, they are not going. I guess it's just a family thing.... You know unless something goes wrong, you are not going to pay money, just to go down there and get busy [waiting at doctor's office]. That's how I grew up and probably why the check up thing is not happening with me.

Another participant spoke about the attitude of his brother:

Sometimes if someone is not feeling well or something, they will go to get a physical. Myself, I will at least try to get it [annual physical exam], but if you tell it to my brother, he might just put it off, saying "Yeah, I am going to do this and I'm going to do that," but he never will do it.... I have never mentioned to my brother that I had prostate cancer screening because it never comes up.

One man noted that a family member, such as a wife, who was very close and understood the man's needs could be essential to meeting health needs. He said,

If a man has a wife, she talks about it [physical exam screenings]. Years ago when I was married, I used to make sure that my son's mom guarded her exams [physical exam screenings]... I not only talked to her about going to the doctor, but I would take her to the appointments. So now it has come to me that it was not only a family member thing or that you know your mate, but we were like friends. Once you are married to your friend, you can talk about anything. So now, I don't have that, so I'm quite sure that is why I am not going to my prostate exams regularly.


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