Prostate cancer – Unmasking the Silent threat

In November, CANSA shines the spotlight on Men’s health, specifically prostate cancer – one of the most common cancers affecting men in South Africa.

What is The Prostate?

The prostate is a gland located below the bladder. It prevents nutrients to sperm, a component of semen.

Look out for the symptoms

Prostate cancer is mostly slow growing with subtle symptoms in the early stages which may even be undetected.

Lower urinary tract symptom like an interrupted urine stream or a weaker flow can be an indication of prostate cancer if the doctor has ruled out an infection. Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is an enlarged prostate which could produce the same symptoms as prostate cancer.

It is for this reason that men should be encouraged to go for regular health checks and screenings.

Symptoms include:

  • Frequent passing of urine – especially at night.
  • Difficulty starting or stopping urination.
  • Weak or interrupted urinary flow.
  • Painful or burning sensation during urination or ejaculation.
  • Blood in urine or semen.

Advanced symptoms include pain in the lower back, hips or upper thighs.

Am I at risk?

Age is the strongest risk factor for prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is very rare before the age of 40, but the chance of having prostate cancer rises rapidly after age 50.

Other risks include:

  • Ethnicity – studies demonstrate a higher susceptibility among men of color.
  • Family history of the disease and genetic factors.
  • Lifestyle choices, such as obesity. Obese men diagnosed with prostate cancer may be more likely to have advanced disease that is more difficult to treat.

Testing, Testing – 1, 2, 3

Lorraine Govender, CANSA’s national manager: health Promotion states, “The problem with slow-growing cancer like prostate cancer is that, by the time you experience symptoms, the cancer may already be advanced. That is why it’s so crucial to undergo annual prostate screenings.”

These days, testing for prostate cancer is now as easy as 123, with a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test. PSA is a protein produced by cells within the prostate and released in very small amounts into the bloodstream. When there is a problem with the prostate – like the development and growth of prostate cancer – more and more PSA is released. It eventually reaches a level where it can be easily detected in the blood. For a PSA test, a small amount of blood is drawn from the arm, the level of PSA is measured

This test is also a lot more comfortable, eliminating the need for any discomfort or awkwardness as it offers less invasive approach to testing.

Other than prostate cancer, higher values of PSA may indicate, enlargement, inflammation of the prostate gland.

PSA tests are available, by appointment, at CANSA Care Centres nationwide at affordable rates. Testing can also be done via local health clinics, health care practitioners if presenting with symptoms.

Mental health and support

For most men, prioritising mental health does not come easy. Society’s expectations and traditional gender roles play a role in why men are less likely to discuss or seek help for their mental health problems. Men are often expected to be strong, dominant and in control. While these aren’t inherently bad things, they can make it harder for men to reach out for help and open up.

CANSA understands this which is why we have a dedicated team ready to provide not just you but your loved ones with care and support, going that extra mile journey. From lending a hand with medical equipment, free telephone counseling and there are support groups, both in-person and online, and a wealth of resources to tap into. And for those having treatments far from home, there’s warm embrace of CANSA Care Homes to offer comfort.

Contact your nearest CANSA Care Centre or the CANSA Help Desk via 0800 22 66 22 or to tap into our care and support programmes.

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