Did you know that Prostate Cancer is the most common cancer in South African Men? The sad part is that it is often left too late because of the stigmas that surround cancer in men. The fact is, early detection is absolute key when dealing with it. Early detection can sometimes quite literally be the difference between life and death.
If it is detected early, there is a 98% chance of survival past 5 years. That’s some really good odds! However, if it’s detected late, that chance drops to below 26%. So when we say that early detection is key, we are not joking around!
Who is at Risk for Prostate Cancer?
Your risk of developing this type of cancer increases with age. However, by no means does it only affect old men. Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men worldwide. Men who are of African or Caribbean descent, and men who have a family history (a brother or father with prostate cancer), are 2.5x more likely to get prostate cancer.
If you’re 50, you should be talking to your doctor about PSA testing. If you’re of African or Caribbean descent, you need to start that conversation at 45. And if you have a brother or father with prostate cancer in their history, do it at 45 as well.
What is a PSA Test?
It’s a simple routine blood test.
It’s used to determine the measurement of Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) concentration in the blood, it is the primary method of testing for prostate cancer. You should be talking to your doctor about whether testing is right for you.
The Facts about Prostate Cancer
Only men have a prostate gland. The prostate gland is usually the size and shape of a walnut and grows bigger as you get older. It sits underneath the bladder and surrounds the urethra, which is the tube men urinate and ejaculate through. Its main job is to help make semen – the fluid that carries sperm.
It occurs when some of the cells in the prostate reproduce far more rapidly than normal, resulting in a tumor. This type of cancer often grows slowly to start with and may never cause any problems. But some men have prostate cancer that is more likely to spread. These prostate cancer cells, if left untreated, may spread from the prostate and invade distant parts of the body, particularly the lymph nodes and bones, producing secondary tumors in a process known as metastasis.
Not everyone experiences symptoms of prostate cancer. Many times, signs of prostate cancer are first detected by a doctor during a routine check-up.
Some men, however, will experience changes in urinary or sexual function that might indicate the presence of prostate cancer.
Signs and symptoms
- A need to urinate frequently, especially at night
- Difficulty starting urination or holding back urine
- Weak or interrupted flow of urine
- Painful or burning urination
- Difficulty in having an erection
- Painful ejaculation
- Blood in urine or semen
- Frequent pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs
- Treating prostate cancer
- Treatment options are many and varied. Testing still can’t answer lots of key questions about disease aggression, prognosis and progression.
If you have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, it’s important to keep in mind that many are slow growing and may not need surgery or other radical treatment.
Treatment options include:
- Active Surveillance
- Hormone Therapy
- Choosing a treatment for prostate cancer
- Aim to be ok with the treatment decision you make, take risks and benefits into consideration.
Learn what you can, make use of the quality services and resources available. When making treatment decisions the following is recommended:
Decide after a treatment recommendation, but only after getting several different opinions. It’s important to speak to urologists, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, radiologist, nursing and allied health.
Seek a second opinion for a recommended treatment option that is right for you, from both a urologist as well as a radiation oncologist.
Enquire as to whether a specialist is part of a quality improvement audit, such as a registry. Utilize the cancer support services available in your country to increase your levels of information and understanding around treatment options, and potential side effects.
Ongoing side effects of prostate cancer treatment
Depending on the treatment you undergo, you may experience some of the following:
- Incontinence (involuntary leakage of urine)
- Erectile dysfunction (difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection)
- Weight gain due to hormone therapy
- These side effects have different durations for different people.
Because a side effect of treatment may include erectile dysfunction, it can have a serious impact on intimate relationships. As many people who have been through the journey will tell you, it isn’t just a man’s disease, it’s a couple’s disease. Make sure you involve your partner as you think through the various treatment options.
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