UM fights prostate cancer

Timing is key: Nazir, a prostate cancer survivor, said awareness and sound medical advice are crucial for early detection.

KUALA LUMPUR: The Universiti Malaya Urological Cancer Trust Fund is set to launch a nationwide campaign against prostate cancer next month.

The campaign will be led by Datuk Prof Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman and its new board member Datuk Seri Nazir Razak.

The #onlymencan campaign will be a recurring event that will take place annually in November, the Men’s Health Awareness Month, from 2020 until 2024.

Dr Adeeba, who believes that a close partnership between doctors and cancer survivors will have a powerful impact on the fight against prostate cancer, said: “Awareness is the first step to early detection and improving prostate cancer outcomes in Malaysia.”

Nazir, a prostate cancer survivor, echoed the sentiment: “So many more men die or suffer terribly because they fail to detect prostate cancer early enough. And the keys to early detection are awareness and sound medical advice; so those are the priorities of our campaign this year.”

According to the Malaysian National Cancer Registry, more than 60% of prostate cancer cases are diagnosed at the advanced stage (stages three and four).

As such, the campaign aims to lower the number of newly diagnosed advanced prostate cancer from over 60% to 30% by 2025.

To achieve the target, the campaign is adopting a multi-pronged approach. The 2020 edition of the campaign, for instance, will initiate a month-long #onlymencan campaign to create public awareness on prostate cancer.

The key messages of the campaign will be disseminated via advertisements, interviews and key opinion leaders.

During the campaign, there will also be knowledge enhancement programmes on prostate cancer for medical practitioners.

Under these programmes, primary care doctors in both the public and private sectors will attend online training courses to learn the latest updates on prostate cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment in order to provide the best possible care for patients.

A dedicated #onlymencan website that contains health education resources for the public, patients and healthcare professionals will be created as a one-stop virtual resource centre for prostate cancer in Malaysia.

The key is to normalise discussion around the prostate and prostate cancer and not to encourage fearmongering, so that men at risk can get themselves checked.

Prostate cancer is among the top 10 cancers in Malaysia with a large percentage (60%) of diagnosed cases at the advanced stage (stages three and four), where the cancer has spread to other parts of the body outside the prostate region.

In contrast, comparable statistics are much lower in Singapore (25% to 30%) and the United States (less than 20%).

There are about 117 urologists in the country, which makes up 0.005 urologists per 1,000 in the population, which is low compared to Singapore’s 0.02 and the United States’ 0.04.

In the United States, where testing is more widespread, one in nine men are diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime.

That said, it is fortunately one of the most treatable forms of cancer because if detected early, there is a survival rate of more than 90% for at least 10 years.

When it comes to prostate cancer, risk factors include age, family history and genetics, as well as race.

Men above the age of 50 have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer while those with fathers or brothers with prostate cancer face double the risk compared to other men.

In Malaysia, Chinese men have a higher risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Although patients can be asymptomatic, common symptoms of prostate cancer are difficulty in urination, frequent urination at night, painful urination, blood in urine or semen, as well as bone pain for metastatic patients.

The prostate specific antigen (PSA) test can detect high levels of PSA that may indicate the presence of prostate cancer.

But many other conditions such as an enlarged or inflamed prostate can also increase PSA levels. Therefore, determining what a high PSA score means can be complicated.

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