Understanding Prostate Cancer

Siboniso Mawandla | The Republic Mail

Prostate cancer is said to be the most common cancer in South African men. If detected early, there is a 98% chance of survival beyond 5 years, however, if detected late, the chances of survival drop to 26% chance of survival beyond 5 years.

What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is a disease that only affects men, a prostate is a gland of the male reproductive system that exists directly under the bladder, in front of the rectum. Prostate cancer occurs when some of the cells in the prostate reproduce more than normal, resulting in a tumour. It may grow slowly and may also not cause many problems. Some men are most likely to develop metastasis, a process where prostate cancer spreads, if left untreated it may spread from the prostate to other body parts such as the lymph nodes and bones, producing secondary tumours.

What causes prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer can be caused by a number of factors, such as age, genetics, diet, some anti-inflammatory medications taken daily, obesity, sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea also put men at higher risk of developing prostate cancer.

Who is at risk?

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer that affect men worldwide, although the risk is higher when you get older, it does not necessarily mean that it affects old men only. Men who are of African and Caribbean descant are at higher risk of having prostate cancer, including those who have a family history of the disease, regardless of ethnicity.

Men between the ages of 45 to 50 years are encouraged to go for PSA testing. The PSA test is a routine blood test, it is used to determine the measurement of Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) concentration in the blood.

What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?

Symptoms of prostate cancer are not apparent in all men; many signs are first detected during a routine checkup by the doctor.

Some men experience changes in their urinary or sexual function that might show the presence of the disease.

These symptoms are:

Urinating frequently, especially in the evenings

Difficulty starting urination or holding it back

Weak or interrupted flow of urine

Experiencing pain or a burning sensation when urinating

Difficulty in having an erection

Painful ejaculation

Blood in urine or semen

Experiencing frequent pain in the lower back, hips and upper thighs.

Treatment Options

Some prostate cancers are slow growing and may not require surgical treatment or any other radical treatment.

Active surveillance



Hormone therapy


Each treatment options have its own side effects, some of them include involuntary leakage, difficulty getting or maintaining an erection, weight gain due to hormone therapy and depression.

These side effects affect everyone differently. They do however have an impact on intimate relationships. It is important for couples to communicate about the best treatment option for them.

Communication and support is highly recommended. A road to recovery does not only include medicine only, having support and courage is vital. Joining prostate cancer support groups may also give you a chance to meet and talk to men who are going through the same problems.