Awareness of men’s health conditions and the need for regular check-ups has improved in the region, but there’s still a long way to go. Even now, many men sweep health concerns under the carpet. However, simple measures and simple tests can have a huge impact and save lives, say specialists at Clemenceau Medical Center Hospital in Dubai (CMC Hospital Dubai).
“I think men, especially in the Middle East and Arab world, tend to deny their symptoms; they are reluctant to seek medical health or do basic routine health check-ups,” says Dr Rabii Madi, Urologic Oncologist at CMC Hospital Dubai. “Within my specialty, I always encourage men to speak up if they notice something wrong, let's say, in urination, or in their sexual life, because even a minor symptom could be a sign of a serious underlying pathology. Don't try to suppress or ignore your symptoms.”
Even better: don’t wait until you feel symptoms to take care of your health. One of the most pressing concerns for men, of course, is prostate cancer, which will affect one in nine men in their lifetime, and is the second-most common cancer diagnosed in men in the UAE after colon cancer. Screening is as simple as a blood test (the PSA) for all men over the age of 50 (above 40 for those with family history), yet in innumerable cases, it’s missed out.
“Screening for prostate cancer can increase the chance of detecting the disease before it causes any symptoms and before it has a chance to spread,” explains Dr Deborah Mukherji, Medical Oncology Consultant at CMC Hospital Dubai. “Unfortunately, in the absence of screening and awareness in the region, we often diagnose cases when it has spread to other areas of the body and is causing pain.”
Testicular cancer is less prevalent, but affects young men in the prime of their lives. What it has in common with prostate cancer is that catching it early makes all the difference, and all that’s needed is a simple test, a self-exam in this case. “Testicular cancer is something we need to educate younger men about,” says Dr Madi. “Every man between the age of 20 and 40 should do self-examination of the testicles from time to time, to check for any hardness or any lump that can be an early sign of testicular cancer.”
Dr Mukherji explains that it is among the most curable types of cancer. “If diagnosed at an early stage, the treatment is less intensive and it may be possible to cure with surgery alone, avoiding the need for chemotherapy.”
While it’s rare for testicular cancer to be caused by an inherited genetic condition, prostate cancer is associated with mutations in the same genes that increase risk of breast and ovarian cancer in women (BRCA 1 and 2). Specialists at CMC Hospital Dubai perform advanced diagnostic genetic testing on blood samples and tumour tissues of prostate cancer patients to test for these and other mutations.
If the cancer has progressed to the stage of requiring surgery, the very latest in robotic surgery can ensure that the treatment will involve the smallest of incisions, absolute precision, and the quickest possible recovery times.
“Here at CMC, we use state-of-the-art robotic surgery systems, the da Vinci Xi, for the surgical removal of prostate cancer (robotic radical prostatectomy), which is the most effective way of treating localised prostate cancer,” says Dr Madi, who is also the Director of Robotic Surgery at CMC Hospital Dubai, and a pioneer in the field with more than 2,300 robotic surgeries to his credit.
But the first and most important step is prevention, the doctors agree, by simply living a healthy lifestyle, and doing regular screening and check-ups. “Up to 40 per cent of cancers can be prevented by not smoking, keeping active and staying at a healthy weight, and avoiding alcohol,” says Dr Mukherji. “For the cancers that cannot be prevented, screening and early detection can increase the chances of catching a cancer at an early and more curable stage.”
This November, that is perhaps the single biggest message that needs to be sent out there to men and to the families that love them. “Dubai is an international city, and I’m seeing more awareness in my patients, whether they are Emirati, or from Asian or European countries, which is good,” says Dr Madi. “But to the spouses and significant others, I would say: if your man is hesitant or afraid, encourage him and push him for regular testing. Because screening and early detection save lives.”