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Men's Health

Men & Cancer

Men & Cancer

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It’s of great concern that the number of men being diagnosed with late stage cancer is on the rise.

Knowledge is power and can change the lives of men drastically if they are aware of early warning signs and symptoms of male cancers.

Men need to be pro-active about their health and should recognise warning signs. We encourage monthly testicular self-examinations, annual medical check-ups and cancer screening for early detection, as symptoms don’t always present until cancer has spread. Men also need to lead a healthy, balanced lifestyle, cutting out lifestyle factors that increase their cancer risk.

We urge men and male cancer Survivors to encourage one another to invest in their health and to ask their doctor for advice on specific cancer screening tests relevant to their age, medical and family history.

CANSA focuses the spotlight on prostate cancer, the most common male cancer globally and locally and showing significant increases.* According to the National Cancer Registry, South African men have a 1:19 risk for being diagnosed in their lifetime. International and local research indicates that the risk for aggressive prostate cancer is higher in black men.

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Contact your local CANSA Care Centre for health awareness materials and arrange for screening for prostate, colorectal or skin cancer, or ask about scheduled visits to provide screening via our MANVan and Mobile Health Clinics, if you live in a remote area.

We provide a counselling service dedicated to providing advice to cancer Survivors. Speak to a counsellor at your local CANSA Care Centre or call our Help Desk on 0800 22 6622 to make an appointment for Tele Counselling, or email us at You can also join our Champions of Hope Facebook Group for cancer Survivors & chat to peers who are facing similar challenges.

Find general information regarding cancer, cancer types, treatment, support and risk reduction and information regarding male cancers prevalent in South Africa below.

Top Five Cancers Affecting SA Men:

The five leading types of cancer that indiscriminately afflict men in South Africa are:

Prostate, Colorectal, Lung, Kaposi Sarcoma and Bladder Cancer

1. Prostate Cancer:

The lifetime risk for Prostate Cancer in men in South Africa, is 1 in 19, according to the 2014 National Cancer Registry.

Prostate cancer, is the most common male cancer globally and locally and showing significant increases. International and local research indicates that the risk for aggressive prostate cancer is higher in black men.

The prostate is a walnut-sized gland of the male reproductive system, located just below the bladder. Prostate cancer often grows very slowly and may not cause significant harm, but some types are more aggressive and can spread quickly without treatment. In the early stages, men may have no symptoms. Later, symptoms can include frequent passing of urine, especially at night; difficulty starting or stopping urination; weak or interrupted urinary stream; painful or burning sensation during urination or ejaculation; blood in urine or semen. Advanced cancer can cause deep pain in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs.

Risk factors for prostate cancer include age, ethnicity, family history, being obese or overweight and some dietary factors appear to increase risk. Men can lower their risk of prostate cancer by eating a healthy diet (including lots of fruit and vegetables), maintaining a healthy weight and limiting red meat and high fat dairy products.

Prof Riana Bornman, Senior Research Professor at the University of Pretoria’s School of Health Systems and Public Health and Prof Vanessa Hayes, a Genomicist from the Garvan Medical Institute for Medical Research in Sydney, Australia, focused their research on prostate cancer men of black and Khoisan descent in Southern Africa to better understand the possible links between prostate cancer and African ancestry.

Bornman states, “The most common risk factors include African ancestry, increasing age (from 50’s onwards) and a family history of prostate cancer – on either the mother or father’s side. It might be that prostate cancer grows more rapidly in black than in white men and that transformation from latent to aggressive prostate cancer might occur earlier in black men. Rural men especially may present late and with advanced disease. Men who were biopsied for prostate cancer will be registered in the National Cancer Registry database in South Africa, however, there’s currently no registry for prostate cancer cases that were diagnosed without a biopsy. Therefore, the numbers reported for prostate cancer in South Africa are likely an underestimate of the real numbers occurring. Annual prostate specific antigen (PSA) testing is essential to help detect prostate cancer early, through a simple blood test and this is currently not routinely measured in men presenting at public hospitals.”

CANSA is investing in research in the high incidence of prostate cancer and is funding the Southern African Prostate Cancer study (SAPCS) conducted at the University of Pretoria. This study will contribute to understanding of prostate cancer risk, disease progression and outcomes specifically in the South African population. CANSA is also coordinating the IRONMAN (International Registry for Men with Advanced Prostate Cancer) study, funded by Movember Foundation and sponsored by the Prostate Cancer Clinical Trials Consortium. It will contribute to a large global study of 5000 men, evaluating the treatment and patient-reported outcomes for men with advanced prostate cancer.

Men need to go for simple screening tests to detect Prostate Cancer (see guidelines below). Screening results in early detection, enabling more effective treatment and a better chance of recovery:

  • Routine Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) testing, annually, from age 40 for all men at high risk of prostate cancer. This includes those men with more than one first-degree relative who had prostate cancer at an early age (younger than 65 years)
  • Routine Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) testing, annually, as from age 45 for all males who are at risk of prostate cancer. This includes men who have a history of prostate cancer on either the mother or father’s side, or with a first-degree relative (father, brother, or son) diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age (younger than 65 years)
  • Routine Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) testing, at least once every two (2) years, for all males from age 50

Mobile Health Clinic 2 postReduce Risk Through Screening:

Although most enlargements of the prostate are not cancerous, regular screening is essential.

Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) Test

Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) is a protein produced by both cancerous (malignant) and non-cancerous (benign) prostate tissue. High PSA levels may indicate inflammation of the prostate or even cancer.

A blood test can establish if PSA levels are raised. PSA tests are available at most CANSA Care Centres across the country and via CANSA’s Mobile Health Clinics and Hollard MANVan.

Pharmacy at Spar is excited to launch its new partnership with CANSA offering cancer risk-reduction screenings at selected Pharmacy at Spar branches nationwide. Professional nursing staff will provide a PSA-test special (R150) in November as part of CANSA’s Men’s Health campaign. PSA testing is also available at public health care centres.

MANVan Statistics:

  • 2015 / 16: 3 954 tests done; 120 abnormalities detected
  • 2016 / 17: 7 924 tests done; 135 abnormalities detected
  • 2017 / 2018: 1 751 tests done;  85 abnormalities detected
  • 2018 / 2019: 4 018 tests done; 191 abnormalities detected
  • 2019 / 2020: 2 368 tests done; 41 abnormalities detected

TOTAL over the period 2015 – 2020: 20 015 tests done; 572 abnormalities detected, potentially helping to save 572 lives!

Digitial Rectal Exam

Men aged 50 (40 – 45 for those at high risk, such as men with a family history of Prostate Cancer) should be examined annually.

A doctor examines the prostate through the rectum to check for any prostate lumps or abnormalities.

Learn more about Prostate Cancer, symptoms, screening and reducing risk:

Athlone Grootboom, prostate cancer Survivor and member of CANSA Survivors – Champions of Hope Facebook Support Group: “Prostate cancer is not a walk in the park. I was diagnosed 3 and a half years ago. I went through several surgeries, tests, radiation and chemotherapy with its side effects. It’s a long road and a learning process. It’s better to get the recommended PSA tests!”

Dennis Feldman, prostate cancer Survivor, and member of CANSA Survivors – Champions of Hope Facebook Support Group: “My physician included a PSA test when I turned 50. At age 60 he called me to say I had elevated PSA levels and should see my urologist. After a biopsy six months later, I was diagnosed with early stages of prostate cancer. I HAD NO SYMPTOMS WHATSOEVER. If my physician had not annually included the PSA test, I would not have known I had cancer. I had surgery in 2012 and have had a PSA of 0.02 since then. I have had NO side effects. EARLY DETECTION IS A MUST. Many men are afraid to have a PSA test – please don’t; it can save your life.”

Gavin Tearne, prostate cancer Survivor and member of CANSA Survivors – Champions of Hope Facebook Support Group: “My PSA count doubled at age 54. Every male should go for yearly check up!”

* A paper published in 2014 examining the number of prostate cases diagnosed and deaths, showed significant increases than in previous years. (Babb C, Urban M, Kielkowski D, Kellett P. Prostate cancer in South Africa: pathology based national cancer registry data (1986–2006) and mortality rates (1997–2009). Prostate Cancer. 2014;2014.)

2. Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon or rectum), is the second most common cancer and it is estimated that 1 in 79 SA men will develop colorectal cancer according to the NCR 2014. In early stages symptoms are not present, however when they do occur, they include a change in bowel habits, rectal bleeding, stomach pain, weakness, and weight loss.

CANSA encourages early detection and screening by means of a colonoscopy, starting at age 50 and repeated every 10 years depending on the individual’s risk factors. Faecal occult blood tests are offered at most CANSA Care Centres that look for microscopic blood in the faeces, which may be a sign of a growth, inflammation or bleeding in the digestive system.

3. Lung Cancer

Coming in third is lung cancer with estimates that 1 in 80 SA men will develop lung cancer, according to the NCR 2014. When symptoms appear, they include shortness of breath, cough, a change in sputum, chest pain, noisy breathing, hoarseness, and coughing up blood. Smoking accounts for the majority of preventable lung cancers, and the best way to prevent the disease is to not use tobacco products and avoid second-hand smoke. #NoTobacco

CANSA can assess your risk with a Smokerlyzer device – carbon monoxide is an invisible, odourless, toxic gas formed during tobacco smoking. The Smokerlyzer device is used to measure the exhaled air of the carbon monoxide levels and guides as an awareness tool to educate and encourage quitting the use of tobacco products, and also to be aware of being exposed to pollution and secondary smoke.

If someone stops smoking, the risk of developing lung cancer falls dramatically and after approximately 15 years, the chance of developing the disease is similar to that of a non-smoker. In the event of a smoker quitting, health benefits may be experienced immediately…

Join the CANSA Kickbutt online cessation programme and Allen Carr’s Easyway to Stop Smoking Programme to help you quit for good, and find other tips to help you quit…

Diagnosis & Support

If you suspect that you have lung cancer, you need to contact your medical practitioner in order that the proper screening tests be performed.

If you have been diagnosed with lung cancer, please contact your local CANSA Care Centre so that our staff can offer you and your loved ones care & support, including medical equipment hire, wigs, counselling, support groups, online support groups and resources, as well as CANSA Care Homes where patients receiving treatment far from home can stay during treatment.

Staff can also help guide you through the public health care system.

4. Kaposi Sarcoma

The most common AIDS-related cancer world-wide, is Kaposi Sarcoma (KS) which is the fourth most prevalent cancer in South African men according to the NCR 2014. Approximately 1 in 320 South African males are affected with KS which sees patches of abnormal tissue grow under the skin, in the lining of the mouth, nose, throat or in other organs. About one-third of people with classic KS develop another cancer which can be fatal.

5. Bladder Cancer

And the fifth most common cancer in South African men is bladder cancer affecting 1 in 152 men, according to the NCR 2014. The largest risk factor that can be avoided is smoking, which doubles the chance of bladder cancer. No screening is available, however blood in the urine, a change in urine colour, the need to go frequently and burning pain are some of the symptoms.

Testicular Cancer:

The lifetime risk for Testicular Cancer in men in South Africa, is 1 in 1 798, according to the 2014 National Cancer Registry.

Most Testicular Cancers can be detected early – a lump or swelling may be the first sign that a medical practitioner should be consulted.

Reduce Risk Through Self-Examination

It’s important for young men to start testicular self-examinations soon after puberty.

Men from the age 15 to 49 years need to examine their testicles each month, preferably after a bath or shower, to feel for any pea-sized lumps that could indicate Testicular Cancer.

Learn more about Testicular Cancer, symptoms, screening, self-examination and reducing risk:

2014 Mens HealthTesticular - ...

How to do a Testicular Self-Examination… – source self exam graphic:

Testi-monials to Encourage Men to Talk Balls – for their Health

Testi-monials, a campaign created by FCB Cape Town for CANSA which is setting out to remove the awkwardness around talking about testicular cancer, and drive awareness about how important it is that men not only talk balls but take care of them too.

The campaign features testicles giving their own testi-monials about cancer and how they have been personally affected. They will give advice on how to self-examine and help detect signs and symptoms. Read more…

Testi-monials will live on where people can ask the campaign’s testi-ambassador their health related questions, including:

  • How is testicular cancer diagnosed?
  • What are the treatments for testicular cancer?
  • What are the symptoms of testicular cancer?
  • And many other pertinent questions relating to testicular cancer…

The testi-ambassador will give it to you straight, so there’s no need to beat around the bush.

Back to Normal – Award winning ‘Boys’ back in new campaign for CANSA:

In June 2016 the CANSA Testi-monial video won a Silver Cannes Lions Award and in August, the video won three local Loerie Awards. The Loeries are awards granted locally for local advertising excellence in South Africa.

Loeries were awarded in the following categories:

  • Gold Loerie: Digital & Interactive – Social Media
  • Craft Gold Loerie: Digital Crafts – Animation
  • Silver Loerie: Digital & Interactive – Microsite

November 2017 – FCB Cape Town receives recognition for CANSA Testi-monial campaign at 2017 Care Awards…

Other Cancers Affecting Men:

It’s also important to know about other cancers affecting men such as HPV related cancers including penile and anal cancer. More than 30 to 40 types of HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) are typically transmitted through sexual contact and infect the anogenital area, which in some cases, can result in cancer.

Medical male circumcision helps to reduce Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) acquisition and transmission, and is protective for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) in males, thus reducing the risk of initial or re-infection of HPV among women.

Related Issues:

Read Buddies for Life online lifestyle publication, “Oncology Buddies” for cancer Survivors.

DAREdevil in 2020

Ready to kick male cancers where it hurts? Wozani majita!

We are running cancer outta town at the 10th DAREdevil Run on 13 March 2020.
Get your ticket and join the brotherhood of purple speedos.

Woza bozza! Siyabangena nge-Speedo, majita.

We DARE You to take part:

CANSA offered pre-event screening in the build up to the run at the following venues:

  • Khaya FM (41 men screened)
  • Orlando Soweto (15 men screened)
  • Mofolo Soweto (7 men screened)
  • Diepkloof Soweto (28 men screened)

Has Cancer Touched Your Life?

We want you to know that you are not alone and that we would like to support you and your loved ones, regardless of how cancer has touched your life.

Find info & online resources to help you fight cancer and please read more about CANSA’s Holistic Care & Support which is offered at our CANSA Care Centres countrywide.


Do you have a question?


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