KUALA LUMPUR: Men usually prefer to be more discreet when talking about prostate cancer, compared to women going through breast cancer, says a former cancer patient who now campaigns for greater awareness of the deadly disease.
A.S. Dass, who heads the Prostate Cancer Society of Malaysia, said men diagnosed with cancer will more easily give up hope in fighting the disease.
“Generally, most men are extremely shy and embarrassed to tell their near and dear ones that they are suffering from prostate cancer. This is because of the stigma involved in talking about their own private parts,” he told FMT while attending the World Cancer Congress here recently.
The prostate is a walnut-sized gland found only in males and is located below the bladder in front of the rectum, which makes the fluid that makes semen.
Prostate cancer, or glandular cancer, occurs when normal semen-secreting prostate gland cells mutate into cancer cells. The slow-growing cancer mostly affects men above 50 years of age.
Symptoms include slower urine flow, difficulty when urinating, blood in the urine or semen, as well as testes infection.
According to the National Cancer Registry, prostate cancer is the fourth most common male cancer in the country, while the Malaysian Oncology Society said it accounted for 5.7% of cancer cases among men.
At the four-day World Cancer Congress last week, another anti-cancer activist, Stine Scheuer of the Danish Cancer Society, spoke on the need for support systems among male cancer patients.
Scheuer told FMT that in her native land Denmark, male cancer patients are matched with volunteers or cancer survivors who support them emotionally as they go through treatments, hoping to keep patients’ spirits high.
Dass said Malaysia too had put in place a support system for the community since 2003.
Dass was 63 when he discovered he had prostate cancer. He said he initially did not break the news to his family because he feared being seen as weak.
Dass said he was fortunate that doctors had helped him prepare for what was to come.
Now 79, Dass felt obliged to help others to understand what cancer throws at them, and started his own support group.
“I lived with prostate cancer since 2003 and there was no support system for me to help me fight against cancer,” he said, adding that he benefited from the help he got, thankful that he is now in cancer remission.