Prostate cancer can be cured – if found early

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Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock


Lack of communication and delayed consultations with doctors have resulted in prostate cancer being the second leading cause of death among men.

According to the National Cancer Registry (NCR), the incidence of prostate cancer in South Africa almost doubled between 2007 and 2017, with current statistics stating that one in six men would be diagnosed with the disease during their lifetime.

Dr Evelyn Moshoake, head of the urology department at the University of Pretoria and chief urologist at Steve Biko Academic Hospital, said the cancer was the second leading cause of death in the country after lung cancer.

“Most men only know about their status when it’s already in stage 4, which leads to blocked kidneys and, in some patients, quality of life being affected by paralysis. In South Africa at present, men don’t talk about their prostate problems and, by the time they consult a doctor, it’s already a big concern. Most men think it’s normal to struggle to pass urine as they grow older. That’s one of the reasons we have delayed consultations. We usually encourage men to have check-ups between the ages of 40 and 45 and then yearly after that. If they only do so when symptoms appear, it’s usually too late.”

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City Press asked Mzubanzi Sisalana (44) for his views on testing for prostate cancer, and he said he made sure to get annual medical assessments.

He said:

I’ve already done it for this year. I know that once you reach age 40, you might have prostate cancer. The best way of preventing it is to have a medical check-up, because if the disease is diagnosed at an advanced stage, it will create problems.

Sisalana said the reason a number of men were reluctant to test for prostate cancer was that they were unaware of the illness or how it could affect them.

According to the NCR, when it came to lifestyle factors, there was evidence that a diet low in vegetables and high in animal fats, particularly red and processed meats, could increase a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer.

Professor Shingai Mutambirwa, a founding member of the Prostate Cancer Foundation of SA, said that prostate cancer was the second-most common form of the disease in men, after skin cancer.

However, he said that if it was detected early – which required screening – there was a 95% chance of being cured and having a similar life expectancy to someone without cancer.

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“An increase in having to urinate, especially at night, and the urine stream becoming weaker are two symptoms that older men, in particular, need to be aware of when it comes to possible signs of prostate cancer, although these symptoms are often related to an enlarged prostate. While the abundance of health information out there can be overwhelming when it comes to disease prevention, the bottom line is that exercising, not smoking and following a healthy diet are the cornerstones of good health and should be encouraged. Early detection of prostate cancer also saves lives, so know your risk factors and get screening done annually, as recommended,” said Mutambirwa.

Oberholzer told City Press that men are advised to lead a healthy lifestyle and diet.

He said:

They’re also about 2.5 times more likely to die of it than their white counterparts. Age is also a risk factor, with the incidence peaking between the ages of 65 and 74, while family history is another. Having a first-degree relative with prostate or breast cancer increases the risks significantly

Andrew Oberholzer, CEO of the Prostate Cancer Foundation, said: “We advise men to follow a healthy diet and be physically active, as this helps to maintain good general health. The dietary intake of lycopene, the organic pigment which gives tomatoes and some other fruits and vegetables their colour, has been reported to decrease the risk of prostate cancer.”

According to World Cancer Research Fund International, studies have indicated that men who consume canned and cooked tomatoes several times a week could benefit from a decreased risk of prostate cancer.

“At this stage, the only modifiable risk factor that’s been identified is ejaculatory frequency. There’s evidence that men who have more than 21 ejaculations per month have a 20% reduced risk for prostate cancer,” said Oberholzer.

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He said race was a major risk factor for prostate cancer, with black African men having a 60% increased risk of developing the disease.

“They’re also about 2.5 times more likely to die of it than their white counterparts. Age is also a risk factor, with the incidence peaking between the ages of 65 and 74, while family history is another. Having a first-degree relative with prostate or breast cancer increases the risks significantly.

“There’s been a lot of development in terms of genetics and prostate cancer, so, hopefully, we’ll eventually reach a point where genetic testing will be able to identify individuals at risk,” he said.


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