Samuels' survival story - beating prostate cancer
For the past 17 years, prostate cancer has been the leading cause of cancer-related deaths among Jamaican men aged 40 and older. The incidence of prostate cancer in Jamaica is 78.1 per 100,000 men. Jamaica has the highest prostate-cancer mortality rate in the world.
Prostate cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in Jamaica. In light of this, and September being observed as Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, The Flair is sharing the story of survivor Ian Samuels.
Since turning 50, Ian Samuels never missed his recommended biennial prostate cancer examination. After turning 53 in 2012, he began doing it annually. In 2014, he got a result that prompted doctors to do a biopsy.
The results were shocking. The tissues tested were cancerous. "I wasn't frightened at first. I was made aware of the possible course of actions and was referred to the capable doctors at the University Hospital of the West Indies, who counselled and guided me about what to do next," Samuels told Flair.
Personal chauffeur to the chief executive officer of Worthy Park Sugar Estate, he tells Flair that he has no known family history of cancer. His diligence was because he took the warnings about the increased rate in which men were being affected by the disease seriously.
In the early stages of the disease, most men will have no symptoms. (Symptoms usually appear when the tumour causes some degree of urinary blockage at the bladder neck or the urethra.) This was the case with Samuels. Even after his diagnosis, he boasted of his sexual prowess with his significant other.
Now a year after his diagnosis, Samuels is dealing with the after effects of his surgery which was done in June to remove the cancerous tissues, four months after cancer was confirmed. It took only a few weeks for the father of three to recuperate. However, now he is dealing with the issue of maintaining his erection as firm as it used to be, and incorporating an exercise regime into his schedule.
These issues he happily shared are normal and, as advised by his doctors, will improve steadily over the next two years. "You see, it's a lifestyle change and I am just happy everything is now OK and the stress is behind me. And because of early detection, I was not given any medication before or since surgery. I just have to do my check-ups more often, the first of which is in November."
As Samuels remains hopeful that he will eventually be declared cancer free, he encourages men, especially those over the age of 40, to do their prostate examination. "There is nothing you can do to prevent the disease, but if you see the signs such as 'stopage of water' (difficulty urinating), a burning sensation while urinating, or any problems in that area, don't tek it lightly! Have it checked. Those may be the warning signs and at the same time, avoid fatty foods and liquor."
The prostate is a small gland in men, that is a part of the system. The prostate is about the size and shape of a walnut, sitting low on the pelvis, below the bladder and just in front of the rectum.
The prostate helps to make semen - the milky fluid that carries sperm from the testicles through the penis when a man ejaculates.
Prostate cancer occurs when cancer cells form in the tissues of the prostate. Prostate cancer tends to grow slowly, compared with other forms of cancers. Cell changes may begin 10, 20, or even 30 years before a tumour gets big enough to cause symptoms. Eventually, cancer cells may spread (metastasise). By the time symptoms appear, the cancer may already be too advanced, and can be fatal.
By age 50, very few men have symptoms of prostate cancer, yet some precancerous or cancer cells might be present. More than half of all American men have some cancer in their prostate glands by the age of 80. Most of these cancers never pose a problem. They may never cause symptoms or become a serious threat to their health.
Symptoms of prostate cancer
• Trouble urinating
• Frequent urge to urinate, especially at night
• Weak or interrupted urine stream
• Pain or burning when passing urine
• Blood in the urine or semen
• Painful ejaculation
• Nagging pain in the back, hips, or pelvis
Prostate cancer can spread to the lymph nodes of the pelvis. Or it may spread throughout the body. It tends to spread to the bones, so bone pain, especially in the back, can be a symptom of advanced prostate cancer.