Prostate cancer cases in Uganda are expected to increase by 33% in the next 15 years, according to research conducted by the Uganda Cancer Institute and South Korea’s National Cancer Centre. This projection is based on changes in risk factors and population growth, as noted in their 2022 report, with Judith Asasira as the lead author. The age-standardized incidence rate of prostate cancer is estimated to rise from 41.6 per 100,000 men in 2015 to 60.5 per 100,000 men by 2030.
Several risk factors contribute to the prevalence of prostate cancer, including age (45 years and older), a family history of cancer, African ethnicity, lack of physical exercise, alcohol consumption, and an unhealthy diet. Prostate cancer is currently the second leading cancer among men in Uganda, following Kaposi sarcoma, which affects the blood pathways under the skin and lining of the intestines and stomach. In terms of overall cancer-related deaths in Uganda, prostate cancer ranks seventh.
The prognosis for prostate cancer can be challenging due to late-stage diagnoses. Many patients, like Rev Canon Garshom Twinamatsiko, experience delayed diagnoses. He first exhibited symptoms in 2013, such as difficulties in urination and pain. After several attempts to seek treatment, he was eventually diagnosed with prostate cancer in Kampala and referred to the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI). The UCI sees more than 1,000 new prostate cancer patients annually, with about 90% presenting with advanced-stage cancer.
Common symptoms of prostate cancer include increased urination frequency, urgent urination, painful urination, erectile dysfunction, and other urinary issues. The disease often shares symptoms with non-cancerous prostate enlargement. To address this issue, it’s essential for men to undergo regular screening, including the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test and digital rectal exam (DRE).
The main barriers to addressing prostate cancer in Uganda include limited awareness and difficulties in accessing screening and diagnostic services. A 2023 study showed that only 18.5% of participants had ever been screened for prostate cancer, but the majority were willing to be screened if provided with the opportunity.
Preventive measures to reduce the risk of prostate cancer involve modifying lifestyle and dietary choices. Unhealthy diets, including red meat and sugary drinks, can contribute to the risk of non-communicable diseases, including cancer. Conversely, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can be protective.
The use of certain foods with lycopene, such as tomatoes, apricots, and melons, has been associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer. Moreover, there is no research evidence supporting the notion that masturbation or sexual frequency increases the risk of prostate cancer, dispelling a common myth.