Silence kills, says Dr. Stan Knick, editor and co-director of the recently-released documentary film “Prostate Cancer in Indian Country: Lumbee Indian Men Speak Out.”
“The most important statistic we found in regard to prostate cancer is that Lumbee men are not necessarily more prone to get prostate cancer than the general population, but they are at far greater risk of dying from it,” Dr. Knick said. “That is why it is so important to initiate the conversation.”
Prostate cancer is one of the leading killers in the U.S. In 2012, about 240,000 men were diagnosed and about 28,000 died. American Indian men in North Carolina are greatly affected by the disease. The State Center for Health Statistics reports that there is a 50 percent greater risk of death for American Indian men with prostate cancer than white men.
Dr. Knick, director and curator of UNC Pembroke’s Native American Resource Center (NARC), completed the project with co-director Dr. Ronny Bell, director of Wake Forest University’s Maya Angelou Center on Health Equity. They had support from the Spirit of EAGLES Community Network Program, an American Indian cancer awareness initiative.
The 30-minute documentary features testimony from Lumbee men about their experience with prostate cancer. It is beginning to make the rounds at local churches and civic clubs. It is available at the Resource Center in Old Main.
The testimonials begin with: “I hadn’t had a physical in 10-15 years,” and: “I didn’t know what a PSA was.”
The men were keenly aware why prostate cancer is a silent killer of Lumbee men. “Lumbee men are proud people. They are not open to things like sickness.” And: “One of my brothers had surgery (for prostate cancer). We’ve never talked about it.” Another said: “Some think that maybe if you’ve got it, it makes you a weak man.”
The experience of these cancer survivors taught them that education is a godsend. “I pastor a church. Since I got it, I talk to all the men of our church about it.”
Another said: “I don’t see a problem with a preacher talking about it (from the pulpit).”
Dr. Knick echoed the testimonials: “Lumbee men are proud and admitting to have prostate cancer is seen by some as an admission of weakness,” he said. “Importantly, many men in this community have died of cancer but never knew their cancer began in the prostate.
All agree: The message is – get tested.
Dr. Bell is pleased with the video, and he said it would help with community education.
“We are very pleased, and the video has received very positive responses at our community showings,” Dr. Bell said. “We feel this will be a very effective tool in getting the word out.”
“We hope that their stories will encourage this community to learn more about prostate cancer and to do what they can to alleviate this condition in the American Indian community,” Dr. Bell said.
Ethnography is a key piece of NARC’s mission, and community health is a key part of the mission. Videography has become an important medium for helping American Indian people tell their story.
“Health is something I’ve focused on as an important part of our mission, and we have the equipment and experience well suited to the videography,” Dr. Knick said. “People talk to us because we help them tell their own story.”
Dr. Bell grew up in Pembroke and has continued to contribute to community health here in several research projects.
“The point is that many men are not aware of the dangers of prostate cancer in our community,” Dr. Bell said. “Education is key to breaking down the barriers that prevent men from seeking the services they need to prevent and treat this disease. This video lets them know they are not alone.”
To obtain a copy of the DVD or to learn more, please contact the Native American Resource Center at UNCP at 910.521.6282 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.