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Prostate cancer: You can beat it

Written by Government Employees Medical Scheme
One in every 23 South African men is affected by prostate cancer. Although the disease affects many men, it does not get enough attention.

Dr Stan Moloabi, Executive Healthcare Manager at the Government Employees Medical Scheme (GEMS) believes that more has to be done to educate South African men about the disease – especially since if the disease is picked up early, it can be treated.

“Many South African men know relatively little about prostate and testicular cancers,” he says.

Treatment of the disease has improved over the years, and the sooner it is detected the higher the patient’s chances of survival.

Prostate cancer occurs in a man’s prostate — a small walnut-shaped gland that forms part of the male reproductive system. Prostate cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow in the prostate gland.

Who can get prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer affects men of all races and ages, although men over the age of 50 are at a much higher risk of developing it than younger men are.

“In general, the older the individual the greater their risk of developing the disease,” notes Dr Moloabi.

Men who are over the age of 40 should visit their doctor for tests for prostate cancer once every two years. Men who are over the age of 50 should be screened once a year, he advises.

Symptoms of prostate cancer
In many cases prostate cancer does not have any symptoms. This is one of the reasons why it is important for men to be screened by their family doctor. Men should look out for the following:
  • Difficulty passing urine.
  • Difficulty starting or stopping urine flow.
  • Blood in urine.
  • Pain or burning feeling when passing urine.
  • Any of the above combined with pain in the lower back, upper thighs or pelvic area. “Even though these symptoms may just indicate an infection, they may also be the onset of prostate cancer, so it is important to have them investigated,” says Dr Moloabi.
Treatment of prostate cancer

The treatment of the disease depends on how far it has progressed, what type of cancer it is and the health of the patient.

There are a number of treatment options available for prostate cancer, including surgery, radiation therapy, watchful waiting or hormone therapy – it all depends on how the cancer develops.

How to prevent prostate cancer

Living a healthy lifestyle can prevent many medical conditions that affect men including prostate cancer.

“Eat a healthy diet, get some exercise, quit smoking and heavy drinking to ensure that you stay healthy,” advises Dr Moloabi.

He adds an annual medical check up, especially if you have a family history of cancer, can help save your life.