Serious game aims to save lives of African-Caribbean men most at risk of prostate cancer

Researchers are developing a serious computer game aimed at raising awareness of prostate cancer among black African-Caribbean men – and prompting those at higher risk of the disease to seek medical advice as soon as possible.

Serious game aims to save lives
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Researchers are developing a serious computer game aimed at raising awareness of prostate cancer among African-Caribbean men
The disease is the most common cancer and cause of cancer death among black African Caribbean men.

Professor David Brown, Nottingham Trent University

Researchers are developing a serious computer game aimed at raising awareness of prostate cancer among black African-Caribbean men – and prompting those at higher risk of the disease to seek medical advice as soon as possible.

Experts at Nottingham Trent University, who are creating the prototype, want to address the disease’s high mortality rates among this ethnic group and the various barriers which prevent them from seeking early advice and treatment.

More than 40,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in the UK every year – and one in four black men will develop the disease at some point in their lives.

Unawareness of their prostate cancer risk and symptoms, and fear of tests and treatments for the disease are some of the challenges they face.

The researchers are presenting progress on the serious game at the Interactive Technologies and Games Conference 2014, which takes place at Nottingham Trent University this week.

The game, which the team plans to make available as an interactive mobile app when complete, would be aimed at men both pre and post diagnosis. Users will undertake a series of interactions and will be provided with cues for action for either seeking early advice, or coping with the disease.

They will be encouraged to enter background information, such as ethnicity, age, family history and symptoms in order to create a personal profile. Based on this profile information, the serious game will compute an 'initial risk' of developing prostate cancer. The higher the predicted risk, the more the patient is encouraged and prompted to seek medical advice.

Users will be able to enter details about recent medical tests in order to obtain additional supportive information and guidance about these tests. They can also provide a diagnosis outcome and receive specific details about how to deal with this outcome.

Psychologists in the University's School of Social Sciences are holding focus groups with African-Caribbean men to better understand their perceptions of prostate cancer, barriers for seeking advice in a timely manner, and to establish their preferences in terms of interactive media.

Experts in the School of Science and Technology, meanwhile, are responsible for developing the game and the computational intelligence algorithms embedded within the game for predicting prostate cancer risk.

"Prostate cancer kills one man every hour, and harnessing new technologies to encourage men to seek medical attention in a timely manner can help tackle this issue," said David Brown, Professor of Interactive Systems for Social Inclusion in Nottingham Trent University.

He said: "The disease is the most common cancer and cause of cancer death among black African Caribbean men. Barriers experienced by these men are likely to impact greatly on their decisions – encouraging presentation at a GP as early as possible could save lives."

"Developing culturally sensitive interventions such as this to enhance knowledge and understanding of prostate cancer is crucial. Serious games can provide a supportive framework for patients at the pre and post diagnosis stages."

Dr Sarah Seymour Smith, a psychologist in Nottingham Trent University's School of Social Sciences, added: "Working with men in the community is providing us with insight into the barriers that prevent men from seeking medical support for prostate cancer. Learning from their experiences of the disease, and community initiatives that work directly with the men, is essential in designing the serious app in a way that frames the messages in a culturally sensitive way.

"Getting input directly from the target group about the design of the app will improve the uptake of the tool."

The work – being funded by the NHS Nottingham City Clinical Commissioning Group – also involves Nottingham Trent University's John van Geest Cancer Research Centre, Friends and Bredrins and BME Cancer Communities.

The ITAG Conference 2014 brings together academics and practitioners working with interactive technologies to explore and innovate within the areas of Education, Computing, Health and Disability.

Serious game aims to save lives of African-Caribbean men most at risk of prostate cancer

Published on 17 October 2014
  • Category: Press office; Research; School of Science and Technology; School of Social Sciences

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