It is time to face the facts – South African men do not truly understand the health issues that can affect them as well as their families when they avoid routine check-ups. The South African Medical Research Council has found that men will not visit a Doctor1 unless they are suffering from a chronic disease or feeling seriously ill.
This trend is not just prevalent amongst South African men, but across the world. The general reasons as to why men often neglect seeing a doctor, vary from; I am fine, I don’t have time, or I think I will just tough it out.
This of course is a major problem, as it is a well-known fact that routine check-ups will detect any early signs of diseases, especially when it comes to types of cancer. It is important to be aware of the most prevalent cancer diseases amongst men in our country.
Reports show the leading male cancers2 include; prostate, lung, colorectal, oesophageal and bladder cancer.
With these varying diseases being most prominent in SA, in conjunction with men being reluctant to visit doctors and get checked, it is important to decode some of the myths that surround these diseases. This will help bring the importance of regular check-ups and influence men to take the necessary steps, to ultimately be aware of the signs, acknowledge the importance of early detection, or to have peace of mind after being checked.
Myth 1Prostate cancer only affects certain races: According to the Cancer Association of South Africa,3 prostate cancer is the most common cancer in black South African men and the second most common cancer in white men. More than 4 300 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year with around 2 000 men dying from this disease across all race groups. If left untreated, prostate cancer cells may eventually break out of the prostate and invade other parts of the body, producing further tumours.
Myth 2Breast Cancer only affects women: Shocking statistics from the Breast Health Foundation claim that South Africa has the highest male breast cancer rate in the world. 2 out of every 100 South Africans that are diagnosed with breast cancer are in fact men.4
Breast cancer in both men and women is similar, but men tend to be diagnosed much later in life. This is possibly due to the lack of awareness that men can get the disease, as well as the fact that men have a lot less breast tissue than women which makes it harder to feel lumps.
Myth 3Only old men get testicular cancer: Testicular cancer occurs in young men too, particularly between the ages of 15 and 39. CANSA advises all men to do a monthly testicular self-examination to detect any abnormality. Early detection of testicular cancer5 has a very good cure rate (over 95%) if found and treated early.
Myth 4Colorectal (Colon) cancer cannot be prevented: colorectal cancer6 almost always starts with a small growth called a polyp5, if found early doctors can remove it and stop colorectal cancer before it starts. Talk to your doctor about which test is best for you. Remember healthy eating also plays a big part in reducing this type of cancer.
Myth 5If I already have lung cancer, I may as well continue smoking: There are several reasons to quit smoking after a diagnosis of lung cancer. Kicking the habit can raise the success rate of surgery; make treatment more effective while lowering your risk of dying from other diseases. Quitting has almost immediate benefits such as improved lung function and blood circulation.
Myth 6It doesn’t matter what Cancer I get – it’s a death sentence either way: Early detection and undergoing the right treatment for cancer – in many cases - can improve your chances of survival. Having the right Dread Disease cover can therefore be life changing for you and your family because this kind of cover is designed to help with potential medical and/or lifestyle costs related to undergoing cancer treatment. It provides you and your family with access to funds to cover living expenses, if you are unable to work while undergoing treatment.
Moving forward and planning aheadMost men do not realise the severity of an illness like cancer, primarily the impact it will have on yourself as the patient but also the way it affects your family and friends. Sadly, the truth is that it will change your life dramatically as your health and general state of well-being is affected. In many cases, your family life and your ability to work will not be the same– which can directly affect your financial stability. A cancer diagnosis is something that nobody wants to plan for, but sustaining your family’s quality of life is certainly worth planning for. Having the right Dread Disease cover in place will give you this peace of mind, knowing that you and your family will be covered, to simply enjoy life with your loved ones.