By Michelle C Madzudzo
AS I celebrate my birthday today, I am proud of my achievements as a radiation therapist making strides against cancer in a country where the disease is always the untold story.
It is my wish to keep the fight against cancer alive and not let it be the forgotten C of the COVID-19 pandemic. I am not here to announce my birthday really, today is the perfect time for a wake-up call to all the men across the country. Each month of the year, a certain cancer or cancers will be on awareness worldwide. September is dedicated to raising awareness of various cancers, and prostate cancer, the number one cancer affecting men is one of them. It is high time we raise the profile of prostate cancer in Zimbabwe .
There are thousands of families dealing with prostate cancer globally. 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 and every 17 minutes a man dies from it.
In Zimbabwe, it is the number one cancer affecting our men, husbands, fathers, brothers, uncles, friends, I can’t turn a blind eye on them, they need a wake-up call.
The good news is that it is usually treatable — if detected early, it is not only 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.
I want to take this opportunity to remind every man in Zimbabwe of the importance of regular check-ups and prostate cancer screening. I believe in the old maxim, prevention is better than cure and early detection and treatment saves lives.
Over the years, I have figured out that men don’t fancy going to doctors and they don’t share their feelings. Many men in Zimbabwe are not having the needed conversation with doctors about their unique risk factors for prostate cancer and the reason behind it is that they do not know they need to be thinking about it
The truth 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, and these are:
Increasing age — as men grow 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 or a female relative who had breast cancer increases the risk twice.
Diet — high in saturated fat and calcium and low in fresh fruits and vegetables
Hormonal factors — too much testesterone levels predispose one to a high risk of developing prostate cancer
Other conditions — prostate intraepithelial neoplasia, a condition when 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
Decrease of 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 from 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 ) tests 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 is: do men really know about them? There is need to improve prostate cancer screening services.
It is also important to note that early detection demands education and reaching the men who need it requires not just educating guys of a certain age, it means reaching 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 exam 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 that I have alluded to.
I would like to urge you to go for prostate cancer screening which is advised for men at 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 healthy diet and exercise, take it easy on the red meat ,spruce it up and munch those berries every now and then for a healthy prostate.
This September we can make this 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 .