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What every man should know

Prostate cancer is one of the leading cancers in men worldwide and is the number two cause of cancer deaths among men in South Africa.

The prostate gland is a small organ that is found only in men. It is located below the urinary bladder and the urethra runs through it. The normal function of the prostate gland is to make part of the semen that is released during ejaculation. 

Cancer of the prostate develops in the prostate gland and the cancer cells may eventually spread outside the gland to other parts of the body. Prostate cancer is generally slow growing and gets worse over time. 

Risk factors

Although the actual cause of prostate cancer is not known, the following risk factors have been identified:

Age – Men over 50 years are at risk. More than 80 percent of all prostate cancers are diagnosed in men over the age of 65 years.

Family history  – If a father or brother had prostate cancer, there is an increased risk of getting the disease.

Unhealthy diet – There is a relationship between a diet high in animal fat and protein (especially red meat) and prostate cancer.

Reducing the risk of prostate cancer

The following guidelines should be observed:

Annual screening from the age of 50 years.

If there is family history of prostate cancer, annual screening is advisable from the age of 45 years.

If you are at risk, a diet low in animal fat and protein is advisable. Health professionals often advise you to have a blood test and a rectal examination. The blood test measures the level of a protein called Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) in the blood. If the blood test results show an increased level of PSA, you will be referred for further investigation.

Any condition affecting the prostate can cause the PSA level to rise. A rise in PSA does not mean that the person has cancer.

A rectal examination may confirm the presence of prostate cancer. This examination generally discourages men from seeking medical advice but it is vital to understand that this examination must be performed for your health and well-being.

The importance of early detection

The early detection of prostate cancer greatly improves the success of treatment. Remember, it is your responsibility to look after your own health and to seek advice from a health professional, especially if you have ongoing pain.

Should you have any concerns about your health, please talk to a health professional at your nearest clinic.

This information was supplied by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health.