Prostate cancer incidence, awareness rising

Prostate cancer is slightly on the rise in Samoa, the Samoa Cancer Society (S.C.S.) says, as it spends the month of ‘Movema’ to raise awareness of prostate cancer in Samoa. 

Coined by the Samoa Cancer Society, Movema is the official name for its annual awareness campaign about prostate cancer.  

The S.C.S. President, Shelley Burich, said the recent increase could be because of an increase in awareness amongst men and their level of comfort to actually get tested.

“Over the years we've seen an increase in prostate cancer, just a small increase," she said.

"It might be that just as men become more aware about what is prostate cancer and how they can get checked out any where to go and get over that feeling of ‘I don’t want to know’ type of thing."

She said she hopes to see over the years that more men may learn the early signs and symptoms and get themselves checked as early as possible.

"I’m hoping that each year as we see an increase it’s because of that, they’re becoming a bit more comfortable to come forward and talk about these things," she said.

"I believe for prostate cancer for this month alone, we probably have 6-10 but we will know more at the end of the campaign once we add up all of our activity and then we’ll see how many people have come in."

Burich added that although some men may display the signs and symptoms of the disease, not all will be confirmed cases. She stressed that the most important part is all of them get tested.

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"Normally we see 4 to 6 that are confirmed diagnoses; we might get a lot of men coming in for enquiries and then go for checkups but not all of them will be [a] confirmed diagnosis although they might have some signs and symptoms.

"So that’s really important about promoting the early signs and symptoms to encourage them to come in and get checked.

"They might not get cancer but for those who do get a confirmed diagnosis on average is between four to six, during that Movember."

After success with its ‘Pinktober’ campaign  - its equivalent awareness campaign for breast cancer which raised $40,000 - the S.C.S. has been campaigning for a blue-themed November to raise awareness for men’s health. 

The President admits the initiative has not yet matched its predecessor month in terms of popularity and fundraising but she is confident it will take off: "It’s just gonna get as big as Pinktober; and that’s where we want to hit it, we want to lead it down that path."

The ‘Movema’ brand was inspired by an Australian-founded charity, Movember, which had claimed right to its name. 

The Movember initiative aims to become the only charity tackling men’s health on a global scale, year-round with an overarching goal: to stop men dying too young, from prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and suicide.

Last year, S.C.S. was the recipient of just over $5000 from the Samoa International Game Fishing Association (S.I.G.F.A.) who were the lead donors for the Movema 2018 fundraiser. 

In Samoa, the most common cancers found in men are reported to be: prostate, lung, colorectum, liver and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, while in women they are breast, lung, uterus, colorectum and thyroid.

There are 203.3 cases of cancer per 100,000 men in Samoa and 217.1 women, and the mortality rate (per the same) is 126.2 for men and 112.4 for women, according to a report, published by the Lancet Oncology in August this year.

The same report found Samoa faced myriad challenges in responding to the challenges of a future growing cancer burden such as no public operational cancer units, no medical oncologists or publicly available radiotherapy services, or radiation oncologists.

The student forecasts significant rises in cancer rates in Samoa by 2040 of more than 80 per cent.

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