Health

Over 15,000 Jamaican men living with prostate cancer

Sunday, June 24, 2018

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TWENTY-THREE years ago, Emanuel* received the shock of his life when, during a routine check-up, his doctor told him there was something irregular about his prostate.

He was sent to do a screening test which revealed that he had prostate cancer.

Fortunately for him, his tumour was removed by way of incision surgery, but Emanuel notes that there are many others who were not as fortunate in receiving medical treatment and prescription assistance.

“Back in the day, there wasn't much information being circulated around prostate cancer. Nobody really knew about it and there was no NHF (National Health Fund) to subsidise the medication,” Emanuel said.

Since it was established in 2003, the National Health Fund has assisted more than 520,000 Jamaican men in accessing medication. In fact, between April 2017 and March 2018 alone, NHF paid out more than $270 million in subsidies for medication related to prostate cancer.

Jamaican urologist Dr Leroy Harrison, from Kingston Urology, Ltd notes that prostate cancer begins when cells in the prostate (a small gland found in males which serves the purpose of helping with ejaculation and sperm production) start to grow uncontrollably.

The World Health Organization estimates that there will be 15 million new cases of prostate cancer worldwide by 2020. In Jamaica, it is estimated that one in six males will be diagnosed with the disease.

Currently, there are more than 15,000 men enrolled with the National Health Fund for prostate cancer, many of whom discovered the disease at a late stage.

“Like any other cancer, treatment options for prostate cancer vary and are dependent on the stage. In the earlier stages, the treatment options are surgery and radiotherapy, while in the advanced stages patients require hormonal treatment (medication) or chemotherapy,” Dr Harrison said.

While the NHF provides drug subsidies for individuals with prostate cancer and benign prostate hyperplasia, National Health Fund's CEO Everton Anderson is urging all Jamaican men over the age of 40 to do the recommended annual screening tests in order to facilitate early detection and treatment, if diagnosed.

It is recommended that men over 40 not only do annual screening tests but also make healthy lifestyle choices by consuming a diet which is low in fat, high in vegetables and fruits, and increase physical activity through regular exercise.

Men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer can apply for the NHF card after completing the NHF application form found at several locations islandwide, including hospitals, health clinics, pharmacies or the NHF's head office in Kingston, as well as the help desk outstations and Drug Serv Pharmacies.

*Name changed upon request

This article was contributed by the National Health Fund, which is aimed at providing funding for specified health care benefits, health promotion, health projects, and pharmacy services in a sustainable, efficient and customer-centric environment.

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