By Michelle Chishamiso Madzudzo
This Father’s Day, there will be thousands of families dealing with prostate cancer globally and many more remembering dads who have died from the disease. There are those who will be celebrating their fathers who have survived the prostate cancer trajectory.
As we celebrate the day, I want to remind men in Zimbabwe of the importance of regular check-ups and prostate cancer screening.
Some of you are wondering what they could do for their dads, the best gift you could give dad is the encouragement for him to lead a healthy lifestyle all year round.
One in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime. Statistics state that worldwide every three minutes a man is diagnosed with prostate cancer, every 17 minutes a man succumbs to the disease.
The good news is that it is usually treatable if detected early, it is not, only a heartbreaking but often an avoidable tragedy when a man’s prostate cancer is only discovered when it’s a bit too late to be successfully treated.
Men really don’t fancy going to doctors and they don’t share their feelings.
Many men in Zimbabwe are not having the necessary conversation with doctors about their unique risk factors for prostate cancer and the cause behind this is that they simply do not know they need to be thinking about it.
The fact about prostate cancer is that no one really knows if or when the disease will develop but understanding the risk factors for prostate cancer may help you to take preventative measures and decrease the likelihood of developing the disease.
While the causes of prostate cancer are not fully understood, a number of factors can increase your risk of developing the condition, these are:
Increasing age — as the man grows older, chances of getting prostate cancer increase. While only one in 10 000 men under 40 will develop prostate cancer, one in 15 men in the 60s will be diagnosed of cancer.
Ethnic group — common in men of African Caribbean and African descent family history — having a father or brother who had prostate cancer increases the risk twice, or a female relative who had breast cancer.
Diet — high in saturated fat and calcium and low in fresh fruits hormonal factors — too much testosterone levels predispose one to a high risk of developing prostate cancer.
Other conditions — prostate intraepithelial neoplasia, a condition when a gland looks abnormal. It is important to know that screening may help detect prostate cancer early before the following symptoms occur:
Burning or pain during urination
Difficulty urinating or trouble starting or stopping urination
More frequent urges to urinate at night
Loss of bladder control
Decreased flow or velocity of urine stream
Blood in urine and semen
These may not be apparent in early stages of the disease. Symptoms of prostate cancer differ for each man and any one of these symptoms can be caused by other conditions. As a result, routine screening in the form of a digital rectal exam and PSA (protein-specific antigen) test are important.
Diagnostic tools and procedures have advanced to a point where prostate cancer often can be predicted before symptoms even start. My concern though, are these readily available locally and affordable, let alone do men really know about them?
There really is a need to improve prostate cancer screening services.
It is also important to note that early detection demands education and reaching out to the men who need it requires not just educating guys of a certain age, it means reaching out to their spouses, children, friends, and other family members.
It requires creating a culture where everyone knows that an annual routine conversation with a doctor, including shared decision-making about PSA tests and digital rectal examination could save a man’s life. I know that most men can spend a great deal of time researching which new car to buy, but spend less time on life-altering decisions.
I would like to urge you to consider visiting a doctor if you have been experiencing the signs and symptoms of prostate cancer outlined in this article. I would like to urge you to go for prostate cancer screening which is advised for men at the age of 55, but if cancer runs in your family screening may start earlier on say at age 40.
Last, but not least, consider lifestyle changes including a healthy diet and exercise.
This year we can make Father’s Day the start of a revitalised focus, the kick-off of a campaign to ensure that men are protected.
We can change the conversation and make Zimbabwe a leader in combating prostate cancer through education and early detection.
Our commitment to saving lives must extend beyond Father’s Day. Talk Cancer Zim calls out to the government, policymakers, the corperate world, health professionals, and the nation at large, let us all work together in the fight against prostate cancer. Men’s health matters too! Happy Father’s Day
Michelle Chishamiso Madzudzo is the founder and president of Talk Cancer Zim. She is a radiation therapist by profession.