Article by Curtis Mason, Radiographer at CTMH. As seen in the Cayman Reporter.

According to the United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, men of African descent have the highest rate of prostate cancer in the USA. They also, of course, have the highest rate of death from prostate cancer than all other ethnic groups, followed (not very closely) by Caucasians, Hispanics, American Indians and finally Asians.

Apart from the ethnic factors there is age. The older that one gets, the more likely it is that one will develop prostate cancer. It is advocated by the scientific pundits that at 40 one has a 40% chance of getting prostate cancer, at 50 one has a 50% chance of getting prostate cancer etc. Family history (genetics) is also of great importance as well as diet.

In addition to prostate cancer there are other prostate abnormalities which are of great importance. Prostatomegaly is an enlargement of the gland, otherwise called Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH). Enlargement puts pressure on the urethra, which is the tube, through which urine and seminal fluids pass. This pressure may result in prolonged retention of urine in the bladder which may cause infection. This retention may become so acute that a catheter may have to be placed into the urethra, via the penis, to allow voiding to take place. Retention can be extremely painful.

Prostatitis is an inflammation of the prostate gland which carries symptoms like burning while passing urine, pain or incomplete emptying of the bladder or weak stream.

One of the reasons for the high rates of prostate cancer and other prostate abnormalities among men, especially those of African descent, is the reluctance to get diagnosed. Some of us believe that it is better not to know while some are petrified with the thought of a digital rectal exam (DRE).

Figure illustrating that men of African descent have the highest rate of death from prostate cancer than all other ethnic groups. PHOTO: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

On attaining the great milestone of 40 (earlier if there is a family history) one should pay a visit to the family physician or urologist to do a male wellness check. Your doctor will most likely order a lab test called a PSA test which will detect if there are abnormal levels of prostate hormones in the blood. An increased level may mean inflammation, BPH or prostate cancer.

Depending on the levels of the hormone combined with the DRE, a Trans-rectal ultrasound (TRUS) may be ordered. This is a diagnostic test which allows the radiologist to see the internal structures of the prostate and to see if there are any suspicious growths. If there is any suspicion of prostate cancer then a biopsy may easily be done. Snippets of the prostate tissue are removed and sent off for testing.

A diagnosis of prostate cancer is not the end of the world by any stretch of the imagination. Numerous treatment methods are available and the prognosis is great with early detection. All of the above tests are available locally so the onus is on us. The strong men of the society have to step up to the plate and get tested.