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By Dr T. W Ngwenya Changamire
The most common cancers affecting men in our region are Prostate cancer, Colorectal cancer, Lung cancer, Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and Testicular cancer. Breast cancer although not as common in men compared to women also affects men.
Our article on breast cancer explained who is at risk, how it presents and the importance of conducting routine monthly examination of the breast. This is crucial for both men and women. This aids in early detection and we can save more lives.
Cancer is a condition where cells in the body begin to grow and replicate rapidly. This abnormal growth in cells can affect any part of the body.
The normal process of replication entails that cells undergoing replication should go through certain checkpoints.
These checkpoints ensure that cells replicate correctly to produce normal functioning cells. When these checkpoints fail, cells begin to replicate in a disorganised manner leading to cancer. These “checkpoints” fail as a result of many factors for example genetic mutation. As we continue to age these genetic mutations are common.
If this abnormal replication of cells occurs in the breast, the condition is called breast cancer. If it occurs in the lung or even the testis it is referred to as lung cancer and testicular cancer respectively. Let’s look into common cancers in men, who is at risk, how they present, and when to start getting screened.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer affecting men in our region and it has been shown to be more aggressive in the black population. Prostate cancer is abnormal growth and replication of the cells that make up the prostate gland. The prostate gland is part of the male reproductive system, it surrounds the urethra and is located just above the bladder.
In the early stages of disease most are asymptomatic but as the disease progresses one may develop urinary symptoms because of its location.
Symptoms include pain during urination or ejaculation, blood in urine or semen, increased urinary frequency, weak stream or interrupted stream during urination and an inability to initiate or stop urination.
Please note these symptoms may also be symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection or a urinary tract infection so it is important to visit the doctor once you experience the above. During the late stages of Prostate cancer one may develop pain in the back, hip area and upper thighs.
Risk factors that favour the development of prostate cancer include advanced age, a family history of prostate cancer, African ethnicity, overweight or obese.
Screening for prostate cancer will help to detect it early and prevent spread of the cancer and also increase the chance of getting cured. Screening should start from the age of 40. Men are encouraged to go in annually for a routine Prostate specific antigen (PSA) test and a digital per rectal examination conducted by the doctor.
The PSA is a blood test and The rectal exam is physical examination by the doctor. It allows the doctor to feel for any lumps or bumps in the rectum over the area where the prostate is located. If either tests detect any abnormalities further studies like imaging and biopsies may be conducted to confirm the cause of the abnormality.
The second most common cancer is Colorectal cancer. This is abnormal growth and replication of cells in the colon and in the rectum.
Factors that favour development of colorectal cancer include a family history of colon cancer, family history of irritable bowel disease, a diet that is low in fruits, vegetables and fibre and high in processed meats and red meat, smoking, being overweight and obese and physical inactivity.
Symptoms for colon cancer may include a change in the bowel pattern for example a decrease in bowel movement, difficulty in passing stool or increased frequency, bleeding from the rectal area or discharge that is mucous discharge in nature, pain when passing stool, a feeling as if you have not completely evacuated your bowels and at later stages fatigue, weakness and unexplained weight loss.
For screening men are advised to go in for rectal examination and faecal occult blood test which examines presence of blood in the stool. If this test is positive you are then referred to go for colonoscopy. When you also have symptoms you will be referred for colonoscopy. From the age of 50 men are advised to go for colonoscopy.
Men with a family history of colorectal cancer are advised to go for colonoscopy earlier. Colonoscopy is done at 10 year intervals from the age of 50. Colonoscopy involves a long flexible tube being inserted into the rectum. This tube has a camera which makes it possible to visualise any abnormalities in the rectum and colon. Biopsies may also be done on any abnormal looking tissue to confirm disease.
The next article will conclude discussions on common cancers affecting men. Stay informed!
Contact All In 4 Health – Dr TW Ngwenya Changamire – for General Medical Consultation, Health Screening, Medical Check-up, Health Education and Promotion. The Glen Marais Shopping Centre, 57 Veld Street, Glen Marais, Kempton park 1619
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