WHILE prostate cancer remains the most common cancer in Jamaican men, enough men are still not getting screened for it. Too many Jamaican men still have hang-ups and fears about getting the digital rectal exam (DRE) done — a simple procedure in which a doctor checks for abnormalities in the prostate.
“It has been reported that last year 928 men died from prostate cancer, with many going undiagnosed because of the fear of the screening exam,” Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton said last week.
He was speaking on the heels of the launch of the Bossman Prostate Cancer Awareness Campaign, which encourages men to get screened for prostate cancer this month, which is observed as Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.
But, “Nothing nuh fi insert in my exit,” one 35-year-old man told All Woman, an expression which captures the sentiment of many hypermasculine Jamaican men when it comes to having a doctor's finger inserted into their anus.
Why do men fear it so much?
“I think it's more the stigma of what they think their brethren will say, than anything else,” explained Will Richards, who has a fitness 'camp' for older men in his community in Old Harbour, to encourage exercise.
Richards, 54, said initially his aim was to get the regular domino and Ludo players to do hikes to get fit, but the camp morphed into a club of sorts, with the men, now numbering 15, discussing everything from health to parenting to relationship issues.
“Prostate cancer has come up — the youngest man in the group is 42 and the eldest is 60 — so some of us have had the test and we encourage the others to do it,” he said. “And once we create an environment where it's normal and expected, then we see where it becomes the norm. We now hope to get the younger men in the scheme to also take their health seriously, as they are the group who are so caught up with the foolishness 'bout then don't want anyone touching their rear ends.”
Urologist Dr Gareth Reid confirmed to All Woman that the quick exam is nothing for men to be afraid of.
“A lot of men have this big fear about the test, but it really is far less intrusive than they think it will be,” Dr Reid said. “It's a simple examination. It can be a little uncomfortable, but it's very short. It helps if the patient is relaxed, and just takes some deep breaths in and out. It doesn't have to be a urologist; any doctor can do it. You can use your family practitioner. It lasts for literally about less than a minute.
“A finger is inserted into the back passage after good lubrication. The prostate is palpated (or felt) for any hard nodules and that's it,” Dr Reid said.
“This, along with the PSA (prostate-specific antigen blood test), gives you a good idea in terms of screening.”
'It didn't last long...'
Still not convinced?
These men shared their experience having their prostates examined, and tell why it was no big deal.
I was actually waiting for it to get more uncomfortable when the doctor said it was done. It's nothing to be worried about. It was just a little poking and prodding with a finger. It was done in a minute.
I was not really worried about it, because only men who are shaky about themselves get squirmish by a little exam like that. I just tried to think about something else and took deep breaths while it was being done.
My father died from prostate cancer a few years ago, so I went to get screened to make sure I don't have it. I was more nervous about the results than the test, to be honest with you. A little finger at the backdoor would be the least of my problems if I wait until it's too late.
It was a little uncomfortable, yes, but it didn't last long. But when you get to my age, and you have a wife like mine, you just let the doctors do what they must to make sure you are healthy.
I didn't want to do it, and I was tense, so it took a while. But it was either that or not knowing if I had it, so I eventually relaxed and it really wasn't that bad. Just weird.