Manhood Under Siege
Sounds painful? Then don’t wait till it’s too late. We cover two important cancers that every man should know.
Statistics don’t lie: men are 35% more likely to die from cancer than women. What this means is that men are at a higher risk of cancer. In general, this is largely due to the drinking and eating habits of men and late diagnosis.
Testicular cancer is the most common cancer affecting young men. Most testicular cancers occur in men under the age of 40 years old. According to Dr Lynette Ngo, Specialist in Medical Oncology, Raffles Cancer Centre testicular cancer is one of the most curable solid cancers, even when it is in stage 4. Take for instance: former professional road racing cyclist Lance Armstrong who was diagnosed with stage 3 testicular cancer at the age of 25 recovered completely after treatment. This was despite the fact that the cancer had spread to his brain, lungs and abdomen.
The thing is, don’t think age is on your side. “Young people can develop cancers,” said Dr Ngo. “Should you have symptoms, you should not feel embarrassed but seek medical attention because cancer is curable especially when detected early.”
Common symptoms and signs of testicular cancer include:
- a painless lump or swelling in a testicle
- pain or discomfort in a testicle or in the scrotum
- any enlargement of a testicle or change in the way it feels
- a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
- a dull ache in the lower abdomen, back, or groin
- a sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum
Prostate cancer, the second most common cancer in men worldwide, is usually a slow-progressing disease. Studies have shown that about 80% of men in their 80s had asymptomatic prostate cancer – which means that they were a carrier, but displayed no symptoms.
Prostate cancer is controversial because of widespread cancer screening. “The Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) test measures the blood level of PSA, a protein that is produced by the prostate gland,” explained Dr Fong Yan Kit, Specialist in Urology, Raffles Urology Centre. “The higher a man’s PSA level, the more likely it is that he has prostate cancer. However, there are various reasons for having an elevated PSA level, and some who have prostate cancer do not have elevated PSA.”
Elevated PSA is picking up very early cancers in men who are not symptomatic. This results in over-treatment and a reduction in quality of life. Studies have found that treating them early has no difference from treating them when they are symptomatic. In addition, finding cancer early may not be helpful to a man who has a fast-growing or aggressive tumour that has spread to other parts of the body.
According to Dr Fong, men should be screened for prostate cancer using PSA after 50 years of age unless there are risk factors for prostate cancer. There is a two-fold risk for prostate cancer if an individual has a first-degree relative with prostate cancer. This climbs to almost nine-fold if three first-degree relatives are affected. This means that men with a family history of prostate cancer are recommended for PSA screening as early as 45 years old.
Treatment ranges from surgery, radiation, hormonal and chemotherapy. The ideal treatment will depend on the stage of the cancer and the physical health of the sufferer.
Men, don’t neglect the boobs!!
3 things you need to know about breast cancer
1. Men get it, too
Male breast cancer is very rare (1% of total breast cancers are male) but not impossible. It is extremely important to seek medical attention because it is curable at an early stage.
2. It’s harder to detect
“Prognosis in males with breast cancer tends to be poorer in males due to the small size of the male breast and the tendency of the cancer to spread beyond the breast more easily,” explains Prof Walter Tan, Specialist in General and Plastic Surgery, Raffles Surgery Centre.
3. It’s hereditary
Breast cancer is almost always hereditary. So if you come from a family with a history of breast cancer, go for a genetic testing to see if you are a carrier of the gene, advised Dr Ngo. Carriers (both male and female) have a 50 per cent to 80 per cent risk of getting breast cancer in their lifetime. This can also have implications on your family members, especially the women – so don’t take the risks.
8 cancer symptoms men should look out for
- Persistent pain or discomfort
- Changes on the body and skin
- Chronic fever
- Weight loss
- Abdominal pain and depression
- Persistent cough
- Blood in sputum, urine or stool
Here are some simple things you can do to reduce the risk of cancer.
Screen for colorectal cancer from age 50 onwards.
Quit smoking and avoid second-hand smoke. Don’t drink excessively.
Avoid prolonged exposure to sun.
Eat well and exercise regularly. Manage your weight.