The month of November has come to earn the title of “No Shave November” commonly known as Movember. This month, men decide not to shave their beards so as to raise awareness on men’s health specifically prostate cancer.
What is Prostate Cancer?
The American Cancer Society explains that prostate cancer begins when cells in the prostate gland grow out of control. The prostate is a gland that is found in men and it makes some of the fluid that is part of semen. Globally, research has shown that about 1 in 9 men will develop prostate cancer during their lifetime. Research by Biomedcentral has also shown that men of African origin are more likely to get prostate cancer.
Kenya is facing a rapidly growing demand for cancer treatment vis-à-vis the number of patients in need of treatment. Cancer is the third leading cause of mortality in Kenya with about 7 per cent of annual deaths linked to breast and prostate cancer. Covid-19 is aggravating the situation as cancer patients are at risk to infections and death once exposed to the virus. This is because they have a very weak immune system.
As the country fights the pandemic, it is imperative that the Ministry of Health stays the course in the fight against cancer. This is because, cancer remains the largest killer amongst us.
The Government is making strides to develop a universal healthcare package that advocates for early screening and detection. Early screening is essential for prostate cancer which most of the time has no warning signs during the early stages.
It is imperative that men especially those with family history of prostate cancer, begin frequent screening from the age of forty five. Medical professionals have also advised that those without family history of cancer begin screening at the age of 50. Causes of prostate cancer have been widely debated however there is no proof that diet is a major cause. Doctors have however narrowed down to age as one of the causes.
For more advanced stages of prostate cancer, the patient is likely to experience the following symptoms:-
- Trouble urinating
- Blood in the urine
- Bone pain
- Weight loss
- Erectile dysfunction
- Frequent urination
For those in early stages a number of treatments options are available.
- Watchful waiting – a doctor may wait and observe the cancer and its progression as in some cases the risk of side effects may outweigh the need for immediate treatment
- Surgery- to remove the prostate gland
- Radiation therapy- which targets the specific area where the cancer is manifesting to avoid damaging healthy tissue
For those in advanced stages some of the treatments choices include:-
- Hormonal therapy
- High intensity ultra sound
There also need for discussions on the toll prostate cancer can take on close and loved ones of a patient. Once a man is diagnosed with prostate cancer, people close to him tend to go through turmoil as it is seen as a death sentence.
Even as we push for early screening and detection, we should factor in the emotional support of the families. These can involve:-
- Providing counselling centers where they can go and discuss their fears
- Ensuring that family members are educated about the disease because it is fear of the unknown that brings anxiety. This education can give comfort and sometimes reassure loved ones that it may not be a death sentence.