Early Detection, Treatment Key to Cancer Survival

by Adenike Adeodun

Like many parts of the world, prostate cancer remains a lurking threat to men in Zimbabwe. However, a significant gap persists in men’s understanding of the disease—its symptoms, diagnostic methods, and vulnerable age groups.

Global studies consistently highlight a worrying trend: men’s awareness and in-depth knowledge about prostate cancer remain suboptimal, clouded with misconceptions. While informal communication channels like friends, colleagues, and relatives often serve as the primary sources of information, more formal avenues remain underutilized.

Cancer-focused organizations like Talk Cancer Zim, alongside health professionals, bear a pressing responsibility. They must empower men with timely and accurate information about prostate cancer, ensuring their right to optimal health.

Highlighting the economic importance of men, there’s an urgent call for increased information and education on male reproductive cancers. Without proactive measures, male reproductive health-seeking behaviors, particularly concerning early screening and treatment for prostate cancer, risk remaining inadequate.

What is Prostate Cancer Screening?

Screening involves men showing no apparent symptoms and seeking medical evaluations for early detection of prostate cancer. Early diagnosis can lead to interventions before the cancer spreads, potentially reducing prostate cancer mortality rates. For instance, screening 1,000 men aged between 55 and 69 can prevent approximately one death and detect cancer in three men before it metastasizes.

Diagnostic Methods

Two primary tests in this domain are the PSA blood test and the digital rectal examination (DRE). Both tests indicate changes in the prostate gland but aren’t diagnostic.

PSA Test: This test measures the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level in the blood. While a high PSA can indicate prostate cancer, it can also result from other conditions, such as benign prostate hyperplasia or an infection. Thus, doctors often rely on multiple PSA tests over time to determine a man’s risk.

Digital Rectal Exam: Here, a doctor examines the prostate gland by inserting a gloved finger into the rectum. If they detect any abnormalities, further tests may follow.

When Should Men Consider Screening?

According to a report by Newsday Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe lacks a national prostate cancer screening program. However, global guidelines often suggest screenings for men starting at age 55. Those with a family history of the disease might consider earlier screenings, around the age of 40 to 54. While the decision to screen is personal, discussing individual risk levels and potential benefits with a healthcare professional is crucial.

The Way Forward

Raising awareness about prostate cancer and the benefits of early detection is paramount. Men need to understand that timely screenings could be lifesaving. This effort calls for a national screening program with clear guidelines and increased resources for prostate cancer screening services.

If central, provincial, and district hospitals could provide these services affordably and accessibly, Zimbabwe might see a significant drop in prostate cancer-related mortality.

To reiterate, early detection and intervention can make a world of difference in prostate cancer outcomes. Men should not delay—screening can save lives.

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