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HST Blog

Jun 19
Healthy Men Build Healthy Communities: Prostate Cancer Awareness

By Siyabonga Gema – Communications Officer, Health Systems Trust 

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Men's Health Awareness Month, celebrated every June, aims to raise awareness of, and to educate men on preventable diseases, emphasising the importance of early detection, encouraging men to lead healthy lives. Generally, men are perceived as strong and resilient, attributes that men world-wide strive to exhibit and uphold. As impressive and inspiring as this can be, it may pose a barrier to men accessing health care and support due to the fear of being seen as weak or incapable of handling the pressures associated with being a man in this day and age.

It is precisely for this reason that June is earmarked as the month when men receive much-needed information about their health and how, through taking care of their health, men contribute to the well-being of society as a whole. A burning issue which is a serious threat to men, especially as they grow older, is cancer and, specifically, prostate cancer. Prostate cancer can develop when cells in the prostate start to grow in an uncontrolled way. Sometimes the cancer in the prostate develops too slowly to cause any problems or affect how long you live and because of this, many men with prostate cancer will never need any treatment. However, it sometimes progresses rapidly and tends to spread. This is more likely to cause problems and needs treatment to stop it from spreading.

Prostate cancer does not usually cause any symptoms until the cancer has grown large enough to put pressure on the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the urethra.

Symptoms of prostate cancer can include:

  • needing to urinate more frequently, often during the night
  • needing to rush to the toilet
  • difficulty in starting to urinate (hesitancy)
  • straining or taking a long time while urinating
  • weak flow
  • the feeling that your bladder has not emptied fully
  • blood in urine or blood in semen.


These symptoms do not always mean you have prostate cancer. Many men's prostates get larger as they get older because of a non-cancerous condition called benign prostate enlargement.

According to the World Cancer Research Fund International, "prostate cancer is the second most commonly occurring cancer in men and the fourth most common cancer overall. There were more than 1.4 million new cases of prostate cancer in 2020". Further to this, CANSA indicates that "lifetime risk for prostate cancer in men in South Africa, is 1 in 15, according to the 2019 National Cancer Registry''. Prostate cancer accounts for about 13% of male deaths from cancer in South Africa. Prostate cancer in Black South African men is more likely to be hereditary than in other racial groups; hence, they are disproportionately affected. The statistics above shed light on the seriousness of the situation which calls on various stakeholders, especially the government, to devise an action plan to tackle the issue of prostate cancer prevalence in South Africa.

In 2012, as part of the National Development Plan 2030, the South African government set its sights on significantly reducing the prevalence of non-communicable diseases through strengthening monitoring and prevention in the public health services of common diseases such as breast and cervical cancers in women, and prostate and lung cancers, amongst other action items. While the treatment can work, the best way to tackle diseases, including prostate cancer, is through prevention. This is why efforts have been centred on strengthening health information sharing and public education programmes targeted at men who are most vulnerable to prostate cancer. Men are encouraged to undergo regular screening and testing because early detection is key. It is also crucial to know the risk factors that may lead to prostate cancer to ensure that you access screening and testing services. These risks include:

  • Age: Men over 50 years are more at risk. More than 80% of all prostate cancers are diagnosed in men over the age of 65 years.
  • Family history / Genetic factors: If a father or brother had prostate cancer, there is an increased risk of getting the disease.
  • Unhealthy Diet: There is a relationship between a diet high in animal fat and protein (especially red meat), and prostate cancer.


This Men's Health Awareness Month, the Health Systems Trust calls on all sectors of society to rally support for men through the provision of health, social and other essential services that empower men to continue playing their crucial role in our communities and their families. An array of resources are available for men to access, including support groups and engagement platforms where men engage on pressing issues with other men and empower each other with information.

For more information on prostate cancer and Men's Health Awareness Month visit;

https://www.gov.za/news/events/health-awareness-events/mens-health-month

https://www.kznhealth.gov.za/prostate-cancer.htm

https://cansa.org.za/prostate-cancer/

https://menshealthmonth.org/

 


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