What you need to know:
- Encouraged by friends, Kyeza went for prostate cancer screening even though it was not what he wanted. An early diagnosis meant that even with minimal treatment, Kyeza is now cancer-free.
Sam Kyeza, 66, was declared cancer-free in July. He voluntarily went to hospital after his uncle and founder of Prostate Gland Initiative told him that all men above 45 years needed to have their prostate gland frequently checked in order to avoid late stage cancer of the prostate.
Another doctor, Allen Mayanja, who happens to be Kyeza’s neighbour and works with the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) also encouraged him to go. In December 2019, Kyeza made up his mind to go for prostate cancer screening at Mengo Hospital in Kampala.
“I would frequently feel the urge to urinate, especially at night. My sleep patterns were interrupted because I would wake up many times in the night. Also, my libido had reduced and these are some of the signs that the doctor talked about. I was told to do a prostate biopsy test which cost Shs900,000,” Kyeza says.
According to Dr Fred Okuku, an oncologist at the UCI, prostate cancer symptoms are categorised into early and late stage symptoms. “Frequency, pain or hesitation while urinating is an early sign of prostate cancer while late symptoms include blood in urine, or semen, bone pain, failure to walk, fractures as well as erectile dysfunction,” Dr Okuku says.
He, however, advises that a man should not wait for any symptoms to manifest. Instead, they should go for prostate cancer screening at 45 years of age. This cancer is painless and once detected early, it can be treated and cured.
“Men fear to come and screen for cancer but screening gives the opportunity to detect the disease early. When there is delay, chances of curing the cancer become minimal and the person will be hospitalised for a long time, which affects their family too,” Dr Okuku says.
Dr Okuku adds that although there is no provision for a prostate biopsy test at the cancer institute, one can have it done elsewhere at a cost of about Shs400,000. Once found positive, one will also need to do blood tests for the kidney and the liver and other imaging tests before they start prostate cancer treatment.
Kyeza was also asked to do an MRI scan to see if the cancer had not spread to other parts of the body. This he did at Mengo Hospital at a cost of Shs500,000. The results showed that he had prostate cancer but when he went back to Dr Okuku for the next course of action, he was told that since it had been detected early, it was treatable.
“At the cancer institute, the doctors said the cancer had been caught early and, therefore, no surgery was required. Instead, my treatment plan included eight injections of hormonal therapy that were three months apart,” Kyeza
According to Dr Okuku, treatment will depend on the stage of the cancer. Early stage prostate cancer may be treated using hormonal therapy and if there is no response to this treatment, then chemotherapy can be introduced. Usually, chemotherapy is the last resort for late stage prostate cancer.
Kyeza was also able to receive his injection and still be able to go to work. He says the treatment did not affect his work at all. His family including his wife and children were very supportive and colleagues came in handy whenever he needed assistance.
By July 2020, he had completed the hormonal therapy treament and was recommended to start radiotherapy which he got for three weeks, five days a week.
“I continued going for review until July 2021 when after checks, the doctor said there were no more cancer cells in my body. I advise other men to make prostate cancer screening a part of their lives since early detection will save your life,” he says.
Kyeza warns one to be persistent and vigilant while on treatment. “You also need support from family and friends to help you go through the treatment period. Also, to keep the disease at bay, a change in lifestyle is needed. Following doctors’ advice, I engage in exercises that are fit for my age. I also reduced my meat intake and instead, I consume more fruits and vegetables,” Kyeza says.
Aim for a healthy eating pattern
Instead of focusing on specific foods, dietitians, physicians, and researchers tout an overall pattern of healthy eating, and healthy eating is easier than you might think. In a nutshell, here is what experts recommend:
1. Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Go for those with deep, bright colour.
2. Choose whole-grain bread instead of white bread and choose whole-grain pasta and cereals.
3. Limit your consumption of red meat, including beef, pork, lamb, and goat, and processed meats, such as hot dogs. Fish, skinless poultry, beans, and eggs are healthier sources of protein.
4. Choose healthful fats, such as olive oil, nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans), and avocados. Limit saturated fats from dairy and other animal products. Avoid partially hydrogenated fats (trans fats), which are in many fast foods and packaged foods.
5. Avoid sugar-sweetened drinks, such as sodas and many fruit juices. Eat sweets as an occasional treat.
6. Cut down on salt. Choose foods low in sodium by reading and comparing food labels. Limit the use of canned, processed, and frozen foods.
7. Watch portion sizes. Eat slowly and stop eating when you are full.