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Fighting the rise of Prostate Cancer in South Africa

16 November 2021 Liberty

This year alone, more than 4 000 South African men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. However, this number barely scratches the surface, as more evidence emerges to show that this critical illness is the leading cancer affecting men, locally and globally. While it is the most common form of cancer globally and fairly easy to detect, the question remains: why are so many men – of all ages – experiencing the harshest effects of prostate cancer?

Dr Dominique Stott, Chief Medical Officer at Liberty, believes the reason is simple, yet unnerving. Men are just failing to get checked – a worrying trend that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has shifted the emphasis and individual focus on health globally.

Earlier this year, Liberty revealed its own claim statistics for 2020, where specifically cancer and leukaemia related claims made up 27% of all claims for the year. Among these cancer claims, 20% of male clients were suffering from prostate cancer, while almost 44% of female cancer patients were claiming for breast cancer.

“It’s impossible to overstate the importance of regular screening for these prevalent forms of cancer, because there is a major concern that these numbers are going to increase significantly as we continue to navigate the pandemic,” says Dr Stott.

Liberty’s own analysis theorises that the 2020 claim stats are not reflective of the actual number of potential cancer patients, with health industry experts suspecting that the national lockdown and anxiety over contracting COVID-19 has meant that people have postponed the check-ups that could have identified these critical illnesses.

However, there is good news for those suffering from prostate cancer. When detected and treated early, there is a 99% survival rate due to the fact that it is less aggressive when compared to other cancers. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of noticeable symptoms in the early stages, besides difficulties urinating, which means a lot of men are simply unaware from the onset.

Because of this combination of factors, Liberty recommends that men over 45 get checked every three years, and for men over 65, annually. For younger men it becomes a bit more complex. You have to bear your own risk factors in mind, which includes your family‘s history with cancer diagnoses.

“With that being said, prostate cancer is far from a death sentence when detected early, but treatment could require a significant financial investment,” adds Dr Stott. “What many people don’t realise is that even with a medical aid, there are so many other costs associated with cancer treatment – both medical and in terms of lifestyle – especially if the disease isn’t caught in its early stages.”

Depending on the stage of the cancer, income can be affected should you have to stop working for a period of time, and medical aids do not always cover all the costs associated with treatment. It’s for this reason, amongst others, that critical illness cover could be lifesaving. Critical illness protection is about covering the costs that your medical aid doesn’t cover. Liberty has removed the 14-day survival period following a confirmed diagnosis of a critical illness. Liberty has enhanced its Living Lifestyle Plus benefit with the removal of the two-week (14 day) survival period following a confirmed diagnosis of critical illness to ensure that we’re reducing the financial burden of our clients in their time of need.

“For new cover taken out, Liberty recently removed its 14-day waiting period associated with these claims, because people in need of treatment require this immediately. The financial burden of a critical illness should be the last thing on your mind while dealing with your diagnosis and starting vital treatment,” says Stott. “Liberty recently removed its 14-day waiting period associated with these claims, because people in need of treatment require this immediately. The financial burden of a critical illness should be the last thing on your mind while dealing with your diagnosis and starting vital treatment,” says Stott.

However, preventative action can minimise these costs – especially around prostate cancer that can be treated very effectively and rarely returns. A prostate examination doesn’t have to be invasive thanks to advanced technology such as newly developed, more accurate blood tests.

Either way, a check-up could mean the difference between a quick fix, or a lengthy treatment. This November, where the world creates awareness around the illness through initiatives like Movember, make sure that you (and the men in your life) take care of their physical and financial health.

For more information on prostate cancer, visit https://cansa.org.za/mens-health.

Men who are concerned about their prostate health, or experience any of the following symptoms, please contact your doctor.

• A need to urinate frequently, especially at night
• Difficulty starting urination
• Weak or interrupted flow of urine
• Painful or burning urination
• Difficulty in having an erection
• Painful ejaculation
• Blood in urine or semen
• Frequent pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs

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