The silent danger in prostate cancer

A disease by any name is already numbing enough. But besides the incurable lot, there are those that are so silent yet deadly. You will hardly know or feel it is eating you in the deep until the signs and symptoms start showing. Prostate cancer ranks high among this type of diseases.

A disease by any name is already numbing enough. But besides the incurable lot, there are those that are so silent yet deadly. You will hardly know or feel it is eating you in the deep until the signs and symptoms start showing. Prostate cancer ranks high among this type of diseases.

Mayo Clinic defines prostate cancer as the type of cancer that occurs in a man’s prostate—a small walnut-shaped gland that produces the seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm.

Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in men. Prostate cancer usually grows slowly and initially remains confined to the prostate gland, where it may not cause serious harm. While some types of prostate cancer grow slowly and may need minimal or no treatment, other types are aggressive and can spread quickly.

Sadly, the number of people suffering from prostate cancer has lately been on the rise, with men advised to visit doctors for frequent checkups and digital rectal examination plus blood testing for prostatic specific antigen (PSA), the Director of Medical Imaging Services at King Faisal Hospital Rwanda, Dr Emmanuel Rudakemwa, said.

The latest data from Prostate Cancer Africa indicates that about 100 Rwandan men are diagnosed with the disease each year, with many dying from the cancer.

“People get to know about it at its late stage, which makes it difficult to know the exact figures, but what I know it is on the increase,” Dr Rudakemwa said.

It has been said that 30 per cent of cancer deaths are caused directly by poor life style factors such as in adequate diet, obesity, and low fruit in take, lack of exercise, tobacco and alcohol use.

 Dr Rudakemwa says if not treated, prostate cancer follows a natural course, starting as a tiny group of cancer cells that can grow into a full-blown tumor.

Genetic disease

Scientists say prostate cancer is at times genetic.

“Although it is sometimes genetic, this cannot stop people from going for frequent tests mainly men aged 50 and above,” Dr Rudakemya says.

The early signs of prostate cancer are urinary tract infection, burning pain on urination, frequent urination, especially with fever, not urinating or urinating very little despite drinking enough fluid; producing little urine despite straining; pain due to a full bladder, deep bone pain, especially in the back, hips, thighs, or bone fracture and with Possible sign of advanced prostate cancer that has spread to the bones.

Pain of the spinal cord compression is a true disaster and may be the first sign of cancer. It occurs when the cancer has spread to vertebrae of the spine and tailbone region. The weakened vertebrae can fall down on the spinal cord, causing symptoms and problems with function.

In its earliest and most curable stages, prostate cancer has no symptoms at all and, according to medics, the key to the effective management of the cancer is early detection, using regular physical examination and simple blood tests.

Medical specialists say that prostate cancer grows in stages: stage I prostate cancer is microscopic; it can’t be felt on a digital rectal exam and it isn’t seen on imaging of the prostate, in stage II, the tumor has grown inside the prostate but hasn’t extended beyond it; stage III prostate cancer has spread outside the prostate, but only barely. Prostate cancer in stage III may involve nearby tissues, like the seminal vesicles.

Prostate cancer grows locally within the prostate and grows for many years which make it extend outside the prostate. This can be in three ways through growing into neighboring tissues, spreading through the lymph system of lymph nodes and lymph vessels, traveling to distant tissues through blood, stage IV prostate cancer commonly spreads to lymph nodes, the bones, liver.

Sulaiman Maniraguha, 53, from Nyabisindu Sector in Gatsibo District, a sufferer, says he did not know he had the cancer until he went for medical check-up after experiencing horrible pain while urinating.

“It all came as a shock to me. I was transferred to Central University Teaching Hospital of Kigali from the local hospital. I was operated on and a tube was inserted into my urethra,” he said 

Dr Pacific Muhinzi, of Rwanda Military Hospital, Kanombe, warns that people should stop the habit of sitting out signs of diseases and only seeking treatment when the cancer has reached at advanced stage.

He said this reduces chances of survival.

According to the recent report from Rwanda Biomedical Centre prostate cancer covers 9.4 per cent in men.

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