Cancer is a word that most of us fear and in the male context, men don’t generally like to talk about it. But many cancers can be treated and cured if caught early enough. (1) We need to get the conversation going because knowledge is power and by raising awareness, you take back that power.
Let’s talk about the most common cancer affecting men.
The most common cancer in men in sub-Saharan Africa is prostate cancer, particularly among black men. Furthermore, it is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in this population. (2) Specifically, African ancestry is a significant risk factor, with mortality rates across sub-Saharan Africa of 2.7 times higher than the rest of the world. (3)
Symptoms may include the following (4):
- Difficulty starting urination.
- A weak (trickle) or interrupted flow of urine.
- Urinating more often than usual, especially at night.
- Trouble emptying your bladder completely.
- Feeling pain or burning during urination.
- Blood in your urine or semen.
- Pain in the back, hips, or pelvis that doesn’t go away.
- Pain when ejaculating.
Screening and testing
The most common test for prostate cancer is the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, which measures the level of PSA in a man’s blood. A nurse or medical technician will use a needle to draw blood from a vein, most likely in your arm. The blood sample is then analyzed in the lab to measure your PSA level. (5)
When should you be tested?
It is recommended that most men start having conversations with their doctor about prostate cancer screening at age 50. For men at higher risk, such as those with a family history of prostate cancer or African/black men, screening may be recommended starting at age 45. (6)
It is important to note that early detection is just one aspect of a comprehensive approach to cancer treatment and care. Other factors, such as the type and stage of cancer, the individual’s overall health, and the availability of effective treatments, also play a role in the outcome of cancer treatment.
While there is no sure way to prevent prostate cancer, there are several steps that may lower the risk, such as:
- Eating a healthy diet that is low in red meat and dairy products and high in fruits and vegetables.
- Maintaining a healthy weight.
- Exercising regularly.
- Talking to your doctor, especially if you have a family history of the disease or are at higher risk. Risk factors include being over 50, smoking and black/African ethnicity (8).
The good news is that early-stage prostate cancer is very treatable with watchful waiting and active surveillance, surgery, radiation, and other options like cryosurgery and hormone therapy (9). So please help spread awareness, for the good of your health and those around you.