'Don't delay ... check your prostate'
Prostate Cancer Awareness Month is being observed in September under the theme: 'Don't Delay ... Check Your Prostate'. September 17-24 is being observed as Prostate Cancer Awareness Week.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there will be 15 million new cases of prostate cancer worldwide by 2020.
It is also estimated that one in six men in Jamaica will be diagnosed with the disease, and if caught early, can be effectively treated.
Urologist at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) and lecturer at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Dr Belinda Morrison, said that black persons over the world are at a higher risk of developing the disease.
"Family history is also a major risk factor. If someone has one person in the family diagnosed with prostate cancer, say a brother or father, their risk increases by twofold and the more family members affected, the greater the risk," she noted.
She added that men who are older in age are at a higher risk and as they get older, are more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer.
"Significant rates of prostate cancer are found in men 50 and above, but you also see it in men age 40 and above," Morrison stated.
She is encouraging persons to make healthy lifestyle choices by consuming a diet low in fat, and increasing the intake of fruits and vegetables, and exercising regularly.
In addition, men 40 and over are being encouraged get their prostate screening done annually, in order to facilitate early detection and treatment if diagnosed.
"Prostate cancer can present itself in two ways. It can present through screening, which is where you visit to your doctor early and have the checks done and it is detected way before you have symptoms, or it may just be picked up when you start having symptoms," Morrison said.
She noted that when prostate cancer is detected by screening at an early stage, it can be cured.
"When persons wait until they develop symptoms, it is usually at a more advanced stage and perhaps cannot be cured. This is where we are talking about treatment that can't be cured, but at least try to control the disease. But may not do it successfully for a very long time," Morrison said.
Some symptoms of prostate cancer are: difficulty starting urination; weak or interrupted flow of urine; frequent urination, especially at night; difficulty emptying the bladder completely; pain or burning during urination; blood in the urine or semen; pain in the back, hips, or pelvis that doesn't go away; and painful ejaculation.
According to the Centers for Disease and Control (CDC), two tests are commonly used to screen for prostate cancer. One is the digital rectal exam (DRE), where a doctor or nurse inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to estimate the size of the prostate and feel for lumps or other abnormalities.
The other is the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, where the level of PSA (a substance made by the prostate) is tested. The levels of PSA in the blood can be higher in men who have prostate cancer.
10 YEARS CANCER-FREE
Volunteer project coordinator for the prostate cancer programme at the Jamaica Cancer Society, Odell Lewis, has been prostate cancer-free for the past 10 years.
He said he found out about his diagnosis after he went in for a routine screening.
"I had read up about prostate cancer and I knew I had a family history of (it), but it wasn't until I read up and started getting very interested in it, that I decided it was really important for me to go in for annual screening," Lewis said.
"That is what really saved my life, because they found that I had a very aggressive tumour and they did the biopsy and determined I had stage-two and that I needed to have surgery to deal with it," he added.
Lewis, who was 62 at the time of diagnosis, said early detection helped to save his life, "because had I not gone in when I did, I probably wouldn't be talking to you right now."
Born in Chicago, Illinois, in the United States, Lewis is encouraging men to undergo both the PSA test, as well as the digital rectal examination.
"Now that my PSA is zero, I am not required to do the exam every year because the entire prostate was removed," he informed.
Lewis said that since his diagnosis, he has made several lifestyle changes, including eating lots of fish, vegetables and getting more physically active.
"We have to take complete control of our health," he urged.
The Jamaica Cancer Society in association with the Jamaica Urological Society and National Health Fund will be undertaking prostate cancer screenings at the Montego Bay Culture Centre on September 23, and on September 27 at the Mandeville Parish Church.
For more information, persons can call the Cancer Society at (876) 927-4265 (Kingston), (876) 966-2914 (St. Elizabeth) and (876) 974-2790 (St Ann/St Mary) or visit their office at 16 Lady Musgrave Road in Kingston.