Understanding male cancers – risks, prevention and early detection!

12 November 2017
3 minute read

1Life news

By 1Life

There is no doubt that today we live stressful, busy lifestyles, filled with numerous challenges. With this, comes a range of subsequent health issues like high blood pressure, heart disease, and sometimes even cancer.

Male cancers such as prostate and testicular cancers, in particular, are not necessarily only caused through lifestyle behaviours such as bad diet, lack of exercise, smoking and drinking. Genetic history and age are some of the factors that come into play.

Therefore, as you navigate your busy lifestyle, it is important to take note of male cancers and ensure that you are taking precautionary measures to avoid contracting them. If we consider that incidences of prostate cancer are increasing at around 3% per year in South Africa, with more than 4000 men being diagnosed each year it is clear why South African men need to start considering their health.

Understanding male-related cancers

  • Prostate cancer develops in the tissues of the prostate gland when prostate cells start multiplying at an exponential rate. In some instances, these cells can spread to other parts of the body (lymph nodes and bones). Although this type of cancer is a slow growing cancer in comparison to other cancers, it can still be life threatening if not detected early.
  • Testicular cancer starts developing in sperm-producing cells (germ-cells) and occurs when normal, healthy cells – in different parts of the body - change and grow out of control forming what is known as a tumour. A cancerous tumour can grow and spread to other parts of the body (testicles, abdomen, lower spine and pineal gland for example).

Who is at risk?Males between the ages of 20 – 45 years of age are most at risk of contracting testicular cancer. However, it is said that it can be contracted in one’s teens or early 60s and so it is important that – should a man experience any symptoms – that he be tested.

Prostate cancer is most prevalent in men over the age of 65 however, it can be contracted as early as 40 years of age. It is also the predominant cancer diagnosis amongst South African men.

Another important factor for each of these cancers is genetics. If there is a history of testicular or prostate cancer in your family, you are at a higher risk of contracting such diseases.

Symptoms to look out forTesticular:

  • Painless lump or swelling of the testis
  • Ache or heavy feeling in the scrotum
  • Pain outside of the testis
  • Large glands in the abdomen
  • Breast tenderness or growth
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sudden build-up of fluid in the scrotum


  • Early stages there are no symptoms (see below diagnosis)
  • Difficulty/inability urinating (either when starting to urinate, or when trying to hold back
  • Weak flow of urine
  • Pain during urination or ejaculation
  • Blood in urine or semen
  • Frequent pain in your lower back

According to cancer survivor, Timothy Hart: “If you feel any lumps or pain or tenderness in your testicles, get yourself checked by a doctor. Women do it all the time for breast cancer. Men need to do it for testicular cancer too.”

Prevention is better than cureThe age-old adage of prevention is better than cure seems like just that, an adage, but to be quite frank – when it comes to cancer, this statement couldn’t ring truer. Understanding such cancers, changing your lifestyle, knowing what to look out for and when to take the leap and get tested, are all key to preventing the onset of both testicular and prostate cancer. Self-examination also plays a fundamental role in identifying any potential risks.

They say early prevention is critical as it provides the patient with much higher survival rates. In fact, the 5-year survival rate for men with testicular cancer is 95%, if detected early, and for those with prostate cancer – 98%. However, if detected late – this figure drops to 26%!

So today, make it your business to learn more about male-related cancers – what you are perhaps more prone to due to genetics or family history, how to check for any signs or symptoms and ensure that, when you are unsure, you get checked out.

“Please get checked once a year. Early detection makes the difference,” says prostate cancer survivor, David Lucas.

To read male cancer survivor stories click here or visit the 1Life Instagram page.

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