For some reason, Malaysians are quite shy when it comes to talking about sex, the reproductive system and anything to do with it.
Combine the taboo subject with difficult one like cancer, lagi lah
reticent to speak about it.
Unfortunately, this means that many are not aware of the risks, symptoms and general knowledge on some of the most common cancers that affects them.
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among men worldwide, and third in Malaysia. The number of men suffering from this type of cancer is expected to double to 1.7 million by 2030.
Yet, there has not been enough awareness campaigns or targeted medical policies to tackle this issue.
According to NCSM, 60 per cent of the cases in Malaysia are only detected at later stages (three and four) as there are no obvious symptoms for this type of cancer. The only way to detect it early is by conducting specific tests.
But there are ways to reduce this numbers and detect the cancer earlier, increasing the chances of recovery.
Here are some of the most important things you need to know about prostate cancer:
1) What is a prostate?
OK. Let's get the most basic of it out of the way first.
It is a walnut-sized gland that surround the urethra (the tube that men urinate and ejaculate from) located between the bladder and penis. Prostate produces a component of semen, which nourishes and protects sperm.
2) What is prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer happens when tumor(s) begin to grow in the prostate. This is usually a very slow process and can be harmless. However, if the tumor turns cancerous, it can spread to other parts of the body, especially the lymph nodes and bones. This can cause health complications, and in one in 41 cases, death.
3) Who is at risk?
As long as you have a prostate, you can get prostate cancer. However, some men are more at risk then others, so if you fall under any of the following categories, you might want to consult your doctor.
Genetics, diet and lifestyle
- You are 50 and above.
- There's a history of cancer in your family. If there is, you should start screening from the age of 45 or younger.
may also increase the risk of prostate cancer but they are not the main factors.
4) What are the symptoms?
The most frustrating part is perhaps the lack of ‘common’ symptoms, but some of the signs you should keep a lookout for are:
- Frequent urination, especially at night.
- Blood in urine or semen.
- Weak or interrupted urine flow or the need to strain to empty the bladder.
- Painful urination.
- Painful erection.
- Unable to have an erection.
- Stiffness or pain in the hips, lower back or upper thighs.
If you notice any of these symptoms, consult a doctor immediately.
5) How do doctors check for prostate cancer?
There are several tests to check for prostate cancer. According to MyHealth portal, these are the most common ones:
- Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test
This is when doctors check for higher presence of Prostate-specific antigen in the bloodstream, a clear indication of an issue with the gland. This doesn't immediately mean you have cancer. It just shows that there's something abnormal about your prostate glands so further tests will be done.
- Digital rectal examination (DRE)
This is when a doctor, wearing lubed gloves, insert fingers into a man's rectum to feel for lumps. Usually, this method only works when the cancer is at a more advanced stage.
- Transrectal ultrasound (TRUS)
This test is more high-tech where the doctor inserts a probe into the rectum that will check for abnormalities using sound waves.
The most accurate way to detect cancer is biopsy. A small amount of tissue sample will be collected and looked at under a microscope.
- Computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan
This will give the doctor a 3-D look inside your body.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
This method works similar to CT or CAT scan, without x-ray.
6) What are the treatments available?
Prostate cancer, or any form of cancer for that matter, can be scary. Good news is, there are several treatments available for this kind of cancer.
There are two types of surgery available. First is the radical prostatectomy, where the doctors will remove the entire prostate gland, "accompanying seminal vesicles and possibly lymph nodes in the pelvic area". According to MyHealth, survival rate after this type of surgery in the next 10 years was at 80 - 90 percent.
The second type of surgery is the Transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP). This surgery does not cure cancer, but it helps relieve urinary obstruction symptoms.
The experts will basically use high-energy rays to attack cancer cells. Several rounds of treatment may be needed, and there will be unpleasant side-effects but chances of getting cured is significant.
Prostate cancer is driven by androgens i.e. male hormones such as the testosterones so reducing the production of the hormones may help. This is often done by surgical castration or by prescribing drugs that will turn off the functions of the testicles.
Like other forms of cancer, chemotherapy is also an option for those with prostate cancer. This is basically the use of drugs to kill cancer.
More than one of the mentioned methods are often used to treat prostate cancer. Chances are, you will be dealing with both an urologist and an oncologist for treatment if you get diagnosed.
The hashtag may be a little jarring because of its sexist tone, but that is the point.
Veteran banker Datuk Seri Nazir Razak, who is a prostate cancer survivor himself, together with Universiti Malaya’s Urological Cancer Trust Fund have come up with a five-year campaign called #onlymencan to create awareness about prostate cancer.
The campaign will focus on educating the public about prostate cancer and training general practitioners on how to deal with prostate cancer patients.
Considering that the percentage of Malaysian men only getting diagnosed late is much higher compared to many other countries, the awareness campaign is definitely needed.
Learn more about prostate cancer and the campaign here