Today is World Cancer Day; an international event marked on February 4 to raise awareness of cancer and to encourage its prevention, detection, and treatment.
Cancer is when abnormal cells divide uncontrollably. Also called malignancy, it is an abnormal growth of cells and may eventually spread into other tissues.
Some types of cancer cause rapid cell growth, while others cause cells to grow and divide at a slower rate. There are more than 200 different types of cancer. It develops anywhere in the body.
Of the many common types of this ailment, prostate cancer is the second most common and sixth leading cause of cancer deaths among men globally. In spite of this, awareness of prostate cancer seems low when compared to other types of cancer.
Prostate cancer is to men what breast cancer or cervical cancer is to women. It has the potential to grow and spread quickly. But for most men, it is a relatively slow growing disease.
The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that is part of the male reproductive system. It is located beneath the urinary bladder and in front of the rectum.
The prostate makes some of the fluid that nourishes and protects sperm cells in the semen. Just behind the prostate are the seminal vesicles, which make most of the fluid for the semen.
In this interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Oseremen Aisuodione-Shadrach, the principal investigator of the Abuja site for MADCAP Network study in Nigeria, explains why black men should be wary of prostate cancer.
Men of African Descent and Carcinoma of the Prostate (MADCAP) is the ‘largest study to date’ to explore the genetic causes of prostate cancer in men of African descent, according to the network.
Mr Aisuodione-Shadrach, a professor of Urology at the University of Abuja, also shed light on what men should know about prostate cancer.
What are the most common signs or symptoms of prostate cancer?
Aisuodione-Shadrach: Often, early-stage prostate cancer has no symptoms or signs. It is usually found through a PSA test or DRE, a process called screening. If a PSA test or DRE indicates that prostate cancer may be present, more monitoring and testing is needed to diagnose prostate cancer. When prostate cancer does cause symptoms or signs, it is usually diagnosed in a later stage. These symptoms and signs may include frequent urination, weak or interrupted urine flow or the need to strain to empty the bladder, blood in the urine and blood in the seminal fluid.
If cancer has spread outside of the prostate gland, a man may experience pain in the back, hips, thighs, shoulders, or other bones, swelling or fluid build up in the legs or feet, unexplained weight loss or fatigue.
What are the major causes of prostate cancer?
Aisuodione-Shadrach: Age: The risk of prostate cancer increases with age, especially after age 50. More than 80 per cent of prostate cancers are diagnosed in men who are 65 or older.
Race/ethnicity: Black men have a higher risk of prostate cancer than white men. They are also more likely to develop prostate cancer at an earlier age and to have more aggressive tumours that grow quickly. The exact reasons for these differences are not known and may involve genetic, socioeconomic or other factors.
Family history: Prostate cancer that runs in the family, called familial prostate cancer, occurs about 20 per cent of the time. This type of prostate cancer develops because of a combination of shared genes and shared environmental or lifestyle factors.
Several types of research attribute the high prevalence of prostate cancer among black men to genetic factors. How true is this?
Aisuodione-Shadrach: Different factors cause different types of cancer. Researchers continue to look into what factors cause prostate cancer and make the condition especially worse in black men and men of African descent. The purpose of the on-going research efforts is to ascertain without any reason to doubt that genetic factors must be responsible for this racial disparity in outcomes among patients with prostate cancer. Although there is no proven way to completely prevent this disease, you may be able to lower your risk.
Can prostate be transferred genetically?
Aisuodione-Shadrach: There is sufficient reason to believe so. This is because if a man has a first-degree relative, meaning a father, brother, or son; with prostate cancer, his risk of developing prostate cancer is two to three times higher than the average risk. This risk increases even further with the number of relatives diagnosed with prostate cancer.
How can men check for early signs of prostate cancer?
Aisuodione-Shadrach: The only way to do this is by screening. Screening is used to look for cancer before you have any symptoms or signs. When cancer is found earlier, it is often at an earlier stage. This means that there is a better chance of successfully treating the cancer. To screen for prostate cancer, a man needs to have a digital rectal examination (DRE) and a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test.
How do you manage prostate cancer?
Aisuodione-Shadrach: This depends on at what stage of the disease that the patient was diagnosed. If it is early prostate cancer, the entire prostate containing cancer is removed in an operation called radical prostatectomy. However, if the cancer is advanced, there are other methods of management that will be discussed with the patient.
What is the statistics of men living with prostate cancer in Nigeria?
Aisuodione-Shadrach: Prostate cancer is a leading cancer diagnosis and cause of cancer-related deaths among men. It is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among Nigerian men with an estimated hospital prevalence of between 127 to 182.5 per 100,000 male admissions in the hospital. Until large scale population studies are done in the country, the actual population prevalence will be difficult to estimate.
Can regular sex help reduce chances of prostate cancer development?
Aisuodione-Shadrach: There is no conclusive evidence at the moment that this is true. Some studies have suggested that men with a higher frequency of ejaculations may have a slightly lower risk of prostate cancer. However, this difference appears to be very small while other studies haven’t supported this conclusion.