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Sir Steve McQueen’s film ‘Embarrassed’ could save lives

Published:Saturday | January 29, 2022 | 12:07 AM
Dawn Butler
Dawn Butler

If you haven’t seen the short film about prostate cancer made by Sir Steve McQueen, then I implore you to watch it immediately.

Embarrassed aims to dispel the myths around prostate cancer, encouraging black men to ask their doctors for a PSA blood test, while also spreading the message between family and friends: prostate cancer is curable if caught and treated in the very early stages.

This is such an important message for us all. I know Steve, and I know that this issue is important for him as, sadly his father passed away from the disease. His fantastic video will help to save lives.

So, when approached by Male Cancer Awareness Campaign’s founder Patrick Cox, Academy award-winning film-maker Sir Steve McQueen saw a vital opportunity to use his influence and platform to help spread the message, raise awareness, and dissolve the stigma surrounding the disease.

As you will see, it’s a highly impactful short film starring four prominent black actors: Idris Elba OBE, Chiwetel Ejiofor CBA, Micheal Ward and Morgan Freeman. It’s supported by Belstaff and premièred at the Tate Britain.


I, for one, completely support this vital campaign to raise awareness for this terrible disease. I encourage everyone to take note of its important message: embarrassment cannot get in the way of saving someone’s life.

Many people will be shocked to learn that, according to Public Health England figures, one in four black men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. This compares with one in eight white men who will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and one in 14 Asian men.

In terms of lifetime risk, one in 12 black men will die from the disease, compared with one in 24 white men and one in 44 Asian men who will die from the disease.

Shockingly, black men have a 50 per cent higher chance of losing their lives to prostate cancer than white men. These are heartbreaking figures.


As Morgan Freeman sadly points out in the video, this could be your father, brother or grandfather. We must therefore normalise having a conversation about prostate cancer, to ensure that no one is so embarrassed that they avoid speaking to a doctor about it.

It is vitally important that all our communities, from all backgrounds, are aware of the risk of prostate cancer as it can affect all men. I have always said that no one is safe until everyone is safe.

However, statistics show a heightened risk for black man and I, therefore, applaud this video to help spread this targeted message for black men and dissolve the stigma surrounding the disease.

It has four main goals: one is to raise awareness, the second is to get men and their families to talk about the subject more openly, and the third is to encourage more black men to ask their doctors for a simple PSA blood test.

The fourth, more ambitious, goal of the campaign is to encourage the British government and health authorities to change current protocols to allow automatic PSA testing of black men age 45 and over, as this is a higher-risk demographic. This would mean men who fit that higher-risk category, including all men with family history of prostate cancer, get offered a PSA test – a blood test used primarily to screen for prostate cancer.

I have written to the government outlining my concerns about prostate cancer, informing them of this amazing campaign and its four vital goals. I hope they will join me in raising awareness and put their backing behind these goals, as this is too important not to. There is nothing more important than health.

Readers can help spread the word about this incredible campaign and its vital goals by sharing Embarrassed with love ones. Because asking the question, ‘Have you been checked?’ could truly save someone’s life.

I am so thankful to Sir Steve McQueen, Patrick Cox and all those who made this video. Let’s all come together to support this cause and help save lives.

Dawn Butler is Labour member of parliament for Brent Central and writes a monthly column for The Weekly Gleaner.