We all have a role in fighting cancer

Cancer cells

As I celebrate my birthday today, I am proud of my achievements and endeavoring  efforts as a  radiation therapist, making strides against cancer in a country where the disease is always the untold story.

I am not here to announce my birthday really, today is the perfect time for a wake-up call to all the men across Zimbabwe.

It's that time of the year again when behind the scenes everyone is busy preparing for the famous breast cancer awareness month when the country goes pink.

It is a common tradition in Zimbabwe that cancer is given priority and attention in October when everyone will be focusing on breast cancer, then all goes quiet and we all wait to start the conversation in October the following year.

Let me remind the nation that cancer does not wait, neither should we, cancer awareness should be carried out throughout the year.

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 Zimbabwean man is one of them.

Although often out of the spotlight, prostate cancer is the number one cancer affecting our Zimbabwean men, that’s a real cause for concern.

With this in mind, Talk Cancer Zim aims to bring prostate cancer to the forefront of people’s awareness. Let’s talk about it.

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, 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 the men in Zimbabwe the importance of regular check-up 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 man really 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 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 men  grow older, chances of getting prostate cancer increase.
  • Ethnic group — common in men of African, Caribbean and African descent.
  • Family history- having a father or brother  who had prostate cancer increases risk twice, or a female relative who had breast cancer.
  • 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 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.
  • Erectile dysfunction.
  • Painful ejaculation

These may not be apparent in the 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 showing. My concern though, are that these are not readily available locally and affordable, let alone do men really know about them.

There really 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.

Our commitment to saving lives thrives  throughout September and beyond. As the founder and president of Talk Cancer Zim Trust, I call out to the government, policymakers, the corporate world, health professionals and the nation at large, let us all work together in the fight against prostate cancer. Men’s health matters too! Wake up Zimbabwean men, let’s knock out prostate cancer!

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