The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that the prevalence of cancer in developing countries will increase by around 60% before 2021 due to rapid lifestyle changes. Developing countries such as South Africa have indeed experienced a sharp increase in the number of incidents. An ever evolving diet, especially in the urban areas of the country, as well as increased stress and the effects of global warming are amongst the many reasons for this. While breast cancer and cervical cancer are the most common types of cancer in women in South Africa, men are more commonly affected by prostate and colorectal (cancer of the colon) types of the disease.
Breast cancer in particular has received a lot of attention in the country with companies such as Avon, Estee Lauder, Justine and even Dunlop donating a great deal of resources to the cause. As such, there is far greater awareness and general understanding of the disease. In contrast, much less is known about prostate cancer or even colorectal cancer. Yet on average five men in this country die from prostate cancer every day. So what is there to know about this disease and what actions can men take to lower their risk?
To define it succinctly, prostate cancer develops when some of the cells in the prostate reproduce far more rapidly than normal and result in a tumour. Worryingly, most prostate cancers develop without men experiencing any symptoms in the early stages. Symptoms are more likely to occur at later stages and could include; difficulty in passing urine, bone pain, leaking urine and even bloody urine. The risk factors, like with most other types of cancer, include age, race and family history which can’t really be controlled, however there are actions that can be taken to lower the risk. This includes maintaining a healthy body weight, stopping to or avoiding the act of smoking and sticking to a healthy diet that consists of both fruits and vegetables. The Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) recommends that men over 40 start going for screening annually. One of the screening options, a blood test called Specific Prostate Antigen (PSA) is said to be relatively painless however a biopsy may still be required to determine if cancer is indeed present. Quite importantly, many prostate cancers are slow growing and may not need surgery or other radical treatment. Treatment options include Active Surveillance, Prostatectomy, Radiotherapy, Hormone Therapy and Chemotherapy.
It is definitely worth having a discussion with your doctor about the various types of cancer that affect men. These are the types of conversations that most men dread but must have with not just their doctors, but also their peers because it could really save their lives.
Writer: Katlego Modipane