Thursday, 21 September 2017

WAKE-UP CALL: Consultant urologists urging J’can men to get screened early for prostate cancer

HEALTH WISE: “The level of awareness needs to increase; the message has to be spread more widely,” insists featured speaker Dr. Robert Wan (inset).

SUNDAY’s Prostate Cancer Medical Conference, which drew a standing room-only audience to the Talk of the Town perch of the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, touched on several critical areas in the orbit of cancer research, prevention and treatment. But the presentation that, unsurprisingly, seemed to resonate most deeply with attendees (including scores of Jamaican men of all ages came during a session dubbed “Can You Prevent or Reduce Your Risk of Developing Prostate Cancer?” presented by Asian-Jamaican consultant urologist Dr. Robert Wan.

Speaking with TALLAWAH afterwards, during the lunch-time coffee break, Dr. Wan voiced concern at the large number of men he’s been treating in recent years who come for treatment when it’s too late. “We are still seeing too many men at the initial presentation with advanced prostate cancer. For a man with a PSA of 4 or 5, the cancer is usually very small and curable. But within the last two weeks I saw two patients with PSA of upwards of 4,000, so the cancer has already spread throughout the body and cannot be eradicated,” explained Wan, who’s been a practising physician for over 40 years. “So the level of awareness needs to increase; the message has to be spread more widely.”

So can you prevent or reduce your risk of developing prostate cancer? “Yes,” Dr. Wan hastens to point out, “but it requires a healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle.”

For the record, prostate cancer has been the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in Jamaica for the past 15 years. More specifically, incidence of prostate cancer in the island currently stands at 78.1 per 100,000 men in the population, according to data from the Jamaica Cancer Society.

Like his colleague Dr. Wan, Dr. Venslowe Greaves argues that men are simply not heeding the warning to come in and do their check-ups before it’s too late. “What concerns me most is the fact that the message is not getting out there. Men are still coming in with high PSA levels,” says Dr. Greaves, who earlier presented on ‘Radiation in the Treatment of Prostate Cancer’. “So my recommendation is that Jamaican men fall in line and get their screening done, especially if they have a history of prostate cancer in the family.”

Then there’s the touchiest subject of all – that of the rectal (anal) exam, which gives a lot of men the heebie-jeebies. As a result, many of them shy away from the doctor’s office. Dr. Reaud Gafoor (who spoke on ‘Advances in the Management of Castrate Resistant Prostate Cancer’) is a firm believer that early detection is key to saving more lives. “It’s something we have to address, this cultural bias against the rectal exam. It has come from the top down, and there are a number of misconceptions where that is concerned,” Dr. Gafoor emphasized during Q-&-A. “I have seen a number of cases where earlier screening would have made the level of disease curable.” 

The conference/symposium, which also featured insightful power-point presentations from Dr. Michael Brooks, Dr. Garth Reid, Dr. William Aiken and Dr. Belinda Morrison, forms part of the Jamaica Cancer Society’s month-long series of activities, in observance of Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

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