Prostate cancer: know the signs.

By now you’ve probably noticed a lot of your guy pals have suddenly sprouted facial fuzz on their upper lips. No, this isn’t some new hipster trend. This is Movember, a campaign organised every November where men are encouraged to grow out their moustaches in order to raise awareness for men’s health issues.

On average, South African men die six years earlier than women. Prostate cancer rates are expected to double within the next 15 years while rates of testicular cancer have already doubled over the last 50. Nearly half a million men take their own lives every year due to unreported or under-supported mental health issues.

Organisations such as the Men’s Foundation of South Africa work to raise awareness about these issues and help communities fight back against issues affecting men that are often ignored or downplayed due to out-dated patriarchal ideals that discourage men from seeking help.

Clinical and radiation oncologist at Cancercare Dr Jörn Malan says all men should have a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test at least once a year once they hit 50, earlier if they have a family history of prostate cancer. A rectal examination is also vital.

“The PSA blood test measures the amount of prostate-specific antigen, a protein produced by both cancerous and non-cancerous tissue in the prostate. The higher the count, the more suspicious it is but one must also be aware that one can have cancer with a normal PSA count,” said Dr Malan. This is why rectal examinations by a qualified GP or urologist are so important.

“Symptoms of prostate cancer are often confused for ‘normal’, age-related bodily changes,” he said. A tumor puts pressure on your bladder pipe which can lead to slower urination, having to urinate often at night, poor erections, and impotence.

There are ways to reduce your risk of prostate cancer, such as eating a balanced diet and frequent exercise. For Dr Malan, there are two things which can really make a difference: “Don’t smoke and see your GP or urologist for regular screenings.”

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