By Kadeem Joseph
The hesitation by some men to take advantage of prostate cancer screening is still posing a major problem for medical professionals.
Urologist at Mount St John’s Medical Centre (MSJMC), Dr Regene Johnson, said when men finally visit a medical practitioner with symptoms that can be linked to prostate cancer, the disease is often in its advanced stages.
“When we do get these men, we get them because a family member may notice that they are having a lot of difficulty or maybe the men actually come because they are having difficulty walking and when we get to screen them, we find that they are actually quite advanced,” she bemoaned.
Dr Johnson explained that men of African descent should begin to screen for prostate cancer at 45 years of age and men who have a family history of the disease should start to be screened as early as age 40.
The advice comes at the culmination of Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, which is celebrated every September.
The prostate is often described as a walnut-sized gland located below the bladder and above the penis, just in front of the rectum in the male body.
Many men often dread the main screening test known as the digital rectal exam (DRE), which is followed by a test which assesses the levels of prostate specific antigen (PSA) in a man’s blood. Dr Johnson advises that these tests should be done in concert with each other.
“One should never be done in exclusion of the other because the DRE actually gives us as doctors an idea of what is going on because of the characteristics we may feel on the exam,” she explained.
She said while the PSA test assists doctors, it does not indicate if a person indeed has an issue with their prostate, or may have cancer.
Meanwhile, the urologist said there are not “hard statistics” on prostate cancer in Antigua and Barbuda at the moment, but “it’s a work in progress”.
She indicated that it is difficult to say definitively that there is an increase in prostate cancer cases, however, she shared that, “on a daily basis, when we do have our clinics we do see more and more persons with prostate cancer”.
In seeking to address the reason for the increased incidence of prostate cancer in men of African descent, Dr Johnson said that testosterone has been scientifically linked to the ailment and this subgroup of males have been shown to have increased levels of the hormone.
The medical practitioner also said that studies have shown that a diet rich in animal fat can put men at increased risk for developing cancer of the prostate.
She is also encouraging men to speak to their doctors about prostate cancer screening since the disease often presents without symptoms in the early stages.
However, Dr Johnson said men can look out for difficulty initiating urination, a weak or interrupted flow of urine, frequent urination at night, pain during urination, difficulty getting up or walking, or difficulty voiding the bladder.