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13 November 2023
Many myths surround prostate cancer. Dr Friedel Kerchhoff, a medical adviser at Sanlam, says it’s crucial to know the facts and go for an annual general health screening. If there is any chronic disease or symptoms suggestive of prostate abnormalities, he suggests men go for check-ups more frequently.
“The words ‘prostate cancer’ will stop most men in their tracks; a fear fuelled by the many myths that often cloak this disease,” says Dr Kerchhoff. “Consequently, men avoid screenings, experience anxiety and depression at diagnosis, and avoid treatment because of side effects. Through education, every man can become the hero of his own health story. It’s time we destigmatise prostate cancer screenings and encourage more South African men to act.”
According to the CMS, one in 19 men in South Africa will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime. Last year, 42% of Sanlam’s severe illness claims by men were for cancer, with 36% of those for prostate cancer. For this reason, Dr Kerchhoff says there’s a need for transparent dialogue among men, not just from a medical standpoint but in the South African context.
Dr Kerchhoff says a critical step in achieving this is debunking common myths surrounding this disease and offering practical advice men can adopt to live a life of confidence. These myths include:
Myth 1: I don’t have symptoms, so why screen?
Myth 2: Prostate cancer is incurable.
Myth 3: Screening tests do not help.
Myth 4: Screenings are embarrassing and painful.
Myth 5: Prostrate cancer treatment always causes impotence.
“Prostate cancer is a slow-growing disease and often asymptomatic, which makes screenings vital to flag the cancer early on,” explains Dr Kerchhoff. He says that screening tests should not be performed without the appropriate counselling being done. The most common screening tests include:
Dr Kerchhoff recommends that men undergo regular prostate cancer screenings from age 40 if at high-risk (e.g., family history of prostate cancer at an early age; or breast cancer – especially if linked to BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 gene mutations). "Early detection reduces complications and means access to a wider range of treatment options, most of which are highly effective. Curative treatment involves radiotherapy or surgeries – whichh is now performed with robotic assistance with lower risks.”
As with most preventative approaches, Dr Kerchhoff says adopting a balanced lifestyle with good nutrition and regular exercise can lower men’s risk of prostate cancer, as well as other types of cancer. He adds that Sanlam works alongside CANSA to help drive awareness campaigns and offers a
Cancer Benefit to give men and their families a lump sum to help with the unexpected costs of a diagnosis, like travel to treatment centres, employing a carer for their children and missed workdays. It also includes access to CANSA Tele Counselling for cancer patients, caregivers, and families of those affected by the disease, providing the information and support they need.
"Men mustn't let myths deter them from taking charge of their health. Try to engage with family members about their medical history to gain valuable insights into your health risks and stay informed. Education is empowering. Regular screenings may well save your life,” concludes Dr Kerchhoff.