Sunderland centre's £200,000 cancer support project

A leading cancer charity is investing £200,000 to improve cancer care for ethnic minority groups in Sunderland.

Nahida Aktar, second right, with members of Sunderland Bangladesh International Centre.
Nahida Aktar, second right, with members of Sunderland Bangladesh International Centre.

Macmillan Cancer Support has joined forces with Sunderland Bangladesh International Centre to launch a pioneering project to work with South Asian, black African, middle eastern communities and refugee and asylum seekers in the city.

The project will be led by the centre’s health and wellbeing lead Nahida Aktar.

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She said: “As a member of the community and the fact I’ve worked closely with many families here I know that cancer within the Bangladeshi community and other ethnic minority groups is a taboo subject.

Dr Hassan Tahir.

“There is a lack of understanding of the disease.”

She added: “I also know there are entrenched cultural norms, a deference to authority, that means members of our community accept medical consultation without challenge or question.

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“These issues need addressing on both sides.”

Dr Hassan Tahir, a practicing GP and Macmillan’s lead for personalised care for the region said: “We know that South Asian women as a specific group are at a higher risk than other ethnicities to develop breast cancer yet there is little knowledge of cancer and the associated services.

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"This clearly highlights why Macmillan is engaging with these communities to illicit positive change.”

Tina Thompson, Macmillan North East partnership manager, said: “We’ve been working closely with the team at the Sunderland Bangladesh International Centre over the last year aiming to deliver a programme shaped in response to the community need.

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“Overall, there is a real need among ethnic groups in Sunderland to bridge the knowledge gap and address taboos that negatively impact cancer care.

“On the other side there is a need for organisations providing cancer care services and support to better understand the needs within these ethnic minority communities.”

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Abu Shama, centre manager, said: “Last year alone 38 different ethnic minority groups used this centre and we’ve built trusted relationships with many of them. The work we are now doing with Macmillan will make real improvement to the lives of the people who make up our diverse minority communities in Sunderland.”

For information or support, call 0808 808 00 00 or go to macmillan.org.uk.