Cancer is an emotionally-charged word that no one wants to hear, but being vigilant and knowing your status could save your life. September is prostate cancer awareness month and we spoke to a top Umhlanga urologist and robotic surgery specialist about how to make sure you’re staying ahead of the game.
Suit Up September is an awareness campaign that raises funds for the prostate cancer foundation. Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers affecting men and it’s on the rise in South Africa.
In fact, according to Busamed Gateway Private Hospital urologist and robotic surgery specialist Dr Mike Nicholls, prostate cancer is more common than breast cancer. Which is why it’s imperative that more men pluck up the courage and get checked out because this silent disease arrives unannounced.
“One in six men will get prostate cancer. The difficulty is that, unlike with breast cancer where you can feel it, or melanoma which you can see, prostate cancer often does not have any symptoms or signs. That’s why it is important to have regular check-ups,” says Dr Nicholls who is also the only doctor currently doing robotic prostatectomies in Durban.
Many men happily skip the annual visit to the doctor with the rubber glove, which Dr Nicholls strongly advises against. “Men are inherently lazy about their health and rely on their wives to chase them to the doctor. You have a busy life between work and family and going to the urologist is often a grudge, especially because the test is not pleasant, but it has to be done.”
Look for the signs
If you experience erection difficulties, notice blood in your semen or experience any urinary problems, you should go for a check-up immediately as these are potential symptoms of prostate cancer.
Know your family history
Men of African descent who are over the age of 40 and have any family history of the disease are at a higher risk, according to Dr Nicholls. “If one of your close male relatives such as your dad or brother have had this cancer, your chances of having it have doubled. If two men in your family had it, your risk is five to seven times higher.” If there is no family history of the disease, he says, men from the age of 45 should be checked every two years. After 60, screening should be done annually.
It’s not a death sentence
In fact, according to Dr Nicholls not every prostate cancer case has to be treated – and those that do can generally be treated effectively. “Treatment is quite successful and there are a couple of options available. If the cancer starts to grow or get more aggressive, a robotic prostatectomy is a standard procedure to remove the affected parts of the prostate gland.”
Do your bit
Awareness for this type of cancer is crucial. This month why not join the national campaign by buying your R20 ‘Suit Up September’ sticker from The Prostate Cancer Foundation, pop it on your suit on 27 September and snap some pics of your dashing self!
Details: www.prostate-ca.co.za / Dr Mike Nicholls: 031 261 1226 / [email protected]
Text: Elana Wagner