Prostate Cancer:

The Facts

Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in South African men.
Know the facts and take action early.

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1 in every 23 South African men will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime.

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On average 5 South African men will die from prostate cancer every day.

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More than 4,300 South African men are newly diagnosed with prostate cancer each year.

What Is Prostate Cancer?

The prostate is a gland located immediately below the bladder, in front of the bowels. It produces fluid that protects and enriches sperm.

Prostate cancer occurs when some of the cells in the prostate reproduce far more rapidly than normal, resulting in a tumour. If left untreated, prostate cancer cells may eventually spread from the prostate and invade distant parts of the body, particularly the lymph nodes and bones, producing secondary tumours in a process known as metastasis.

One of the most worrying aspects of the disease is that most prostate cancers develop without men experiencing any symptoms in the early stages.

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Know The Risk

Prostate cancer only affects men, as women do not have a prostate gland. Risk factors in developing the disease include:

Symptoms, testing and treament

Not everyone experiences symptoms of prostate cancer. Many times, signs of prostate cancer are first detected by a doctor during a routine check-up.

Some men, however, will experience changes in urinary or sexual function that might indicate the presence of prostate cancer. These symptoms include:

  • A need to urinate frequently, especially at night
  • Difficulty starting urination or holding back urine
  • 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

What to do

If you have any concerns or are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important that you contact your doctor.

The purpose of testing is to detect prostate cancer at its earliest stages, before the disease progresses. There are two common tests for initial detection, and depending on the results of those tests you may be referred to a specialist for a biopsy.

The Digital Rectal Exam (DRE)
The DRE involves the doctor inserting a gloved finger in the anus, where it is possible to feel part of the surface of the prostate.


The PSA blood test (PSA)
The PSA blood test looks for the presence of a protein in the blood that is produced specifically by prostate cells.


Based on your test results you may be referred to a urologist to have a biopsy taken. This is the only way to determine if cancer is present.


Our recommendation is to discuss your situation with your doctor to decide if testing is right for you. Together, you can choose the best course of action.

As an aid to having this conversation, we worked with the Société Internationale d’Urologie on a tool to help men and their families navigate the decision making process.

Download PSA: To test or not to test? (PDF)

If you have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, it’s important to keep in mind that many prostate cancers are slow growing and may not need surgery or other radical treatment. Treatment options include:

  • Active Surveillance
  • Prostatectomy
  • Radiotherapy
  • Hormone Therapy
  • Chemotherapy

If you’ve been diagnosed with prostate cancer

Take the time to learn about the various treatment options. Make an informed decision by seeking advice from medical professionals and reputable sources.

Depending on the treatment you undergo, you may experience some of the following:

  • Incontinence (involuntary leakage of urine)
  • Erectile dysfunction (difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection)
  • Weight gain due to hormone therapy

These side effects have different durations for different people.

Because a side effect of treatment may include erectile dysfunction, prostate cancer can have a serious impact on intimate relationships. As many people who have been through the journey will tell you, prostate cancer isn’t just a man’s disease, it’s a couple’s disease. Make sure you involve your partner as you think through the various treatment options.

If you’re experiencing any side effects

There are treatments and actions you can take to manage many of these side effects.