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September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month – Know the Facts and Get Checked

One in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

  • Between 1 in 4 and 1 in 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime. 
  • Black African men are at a much higher risk of getting prostate cancer than any other race group.
  • Men who have a father or brother with prostate cancer are 2 to 3 times more likely to develop prostate cancer themselves.
  • The risk of prostate cancer begins to rise sharply after age 55 and peaks at age 70-74.
  • The 5-year survival rate for men diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer is 98%

The Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) reports with great concern that the number of men being diagnosed with late-stage cancer is on the rise. When it comes to prostate cancer, global research indicates that approximately one in every four to six black men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer compared to about 1 in every 8 white males in their lifetime. 

“Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men and the second most common cause of male death from cancer,” says Professor Shingai Mutambirwa, Head of Department of Urology at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University (SMU) in Pretoria.

““All the data shows that the best chance of curing prostate cancer is if it is diagnosed and treated in the early stages before it has spread. However, there are usually no symptoms in the early stages, which is why screening is so important. About 98% of men who are treated in the early stages will still be alive after 5 years, versus only 30% of men who are diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer, which is the stage at which the cancer has spread through the body.”

According to Prof Michael Herbst, a health specialist at CANSA, prostate cancer can no longer be perceived as a cancer that only affects older men. “We are now seeing many more younger men, even in their late thirties and early forties, being diagnosed with prostate cancer,” he says, and urges men to go for their regular prostate examinations.

Prof Mutambirwa explains that the problem with prostate cancer is that it is confined to the prostate in the early stages so it takes a long time before there are any symptoms. By the time that there are symptoms the cancer has often spread out of the prostate making treatment more difficult. This is why annual checks are so vital. These include a digital rectal examination and a PSA test.  This is a blood test that measures the amount of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in the blood stream. An elevated reading could indicate the presence of prostate cancer and would require further investigation by a urologist.  A prostate biopsy is used to diagnose prostate cancer.

“A PSA blood test at your health care practitioner can take a couple of seconds and can potentially save your life,” he says.

Black African men and men who have a family history of prostate and/or breast cancer in a first degree relative need to get screened annually from the age of 40. All men over the age of 45 need to be screened annually.

Prof Herbst says that an increase in having to urinate, especially at night, and the urine stream becoming weaker, are two symptoms that older men in particular need to be aware of when it comes to possible signs of prostate cancer.

He says women have an important role to play when it comes to male cancer awareness.

“You are so important in the lives of men. Please talk to the guy in your life. Whether it is your spouse, partner, boyfriend, father or brother – encourage them to take care of their health,” he says. “I am sure that you would want them to be around for as long as possible”.

In helping to bring awareness of both prostate and testicular cancer, Friday 15 October will see brave men in purple speedos take to the streets of their neighbourhoods to run cancer outta their hoods.

This year, the Hollard Daredevil Run is going countrywide with a once off COVID-edition national event will see participants running alone, with a friend or in a small group of a maximum of 5 runners. To find out more about the Hollard Daredevil Run 2021, go to www.daredevilrun.com.

For more information, and to find a healthcare professional involved in the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer in South Africa, go to https://prostate-ca.co.za/ or https://cansa.org.za/.

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