By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
On average, at least 18 Mexican men die each day from prostate cancer, the second-biggest killer of adult men in the country, according to Roberto Cortez Betancourt, head of urology of Mexico’s Centro Médico Nacional 20 de Noviembre.
“In many of these cases, the deaths could be prevented through early detection and treatment,” he said during a press conference to announce Mexico’s first National Prostate Cancer Awareness Day, on Friday, Nov. 29.
“In most developed countries, about 80 percent of prostate cancer cases are detected in their early stages, but in Mexico, only about 20 percent of cases are detected early.”
One of the main problems concerning the disease in Mexico is that many Mexican men are hesitant to get checked.
“There are a lot of myths and misperceptions regarding prostate cancer,” said Samuel Rivera Rivera, head of oncology at the Hospital Siglo XXI, who also spoke during the press conference.
Besides the fact that many men are uncomfortable having a rectal exam to check for the disease, Rivera Rivera said that some people still see prostate cancer as an “old man’s disease.”
But while age is certainly a key factor, he said, there are other factors such as race, family history, diet and other lifestyle choices that can increase a man’s likelihood of developing prostate cancer.
Obesity (a serious problem in Mexico) and smoking can increase a man’s risk of getting prostate cancer.
“By age 50, 40 percent of all men have early signs of prostate cancer,” said Hugo Manzanilla of the Mexican Urology Society.
“And those with a close family member who has had the disease are twice as likely to get it themselves. Those with two close family members with the disease are six times more likely to get it.”
Moreover, over 35 percent of men who get prostate cancer, get it between age 40 to 55.
Approximately 1 in 9 Mexican men overall will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime, and most of those who are diagnosed in later stages will die from the disease, Cortez Betancourt said.
In its early stages, prostate cancer is a asymptomatic disease, which means that most men will not experience symptoms until the condition has spread to other organs.
Later stage symptoms include frequent and/or painful urination, incontinence and erectile disfunction.
Late detection of prostate cancer can represent a major toll economically, as well as decreasing the likelihood of a positive outcome.
Some types of prostate cancer — there are 29 known types — can, if detected early, before it has metastasized to other organs, be treated through simple observation with a wait-and-see approach, while other early-stage prostate cancers require surgery, Rivera Rivera said, which can cost about 20,000 pesos in a public hospital.
But by the time the disease has spread to nearby organs, he said, radiation treatment is usually required, and that can run about 40,000 to 50,000 pesos in a public hospital and more than 100,000 pesos in a private hospital.
Patience with very advanced prostate cancer — nearly 70 percent of Mexican men with the disease — require hormonal treatment (to stop testosterone production), which costs about 12,000 a month, and usually is only effective for about two years.
After that, patients usually require chemo-therapy, which can run into the millions of pesos, Rivera Rivera said.
Alejandro Barroso Chávez, head of the Mexican Chamber of Deputies Health Commission, said that the new federal budget for 2020 includes a sum of 50 million pesos for prostate cancer treatment and awareness campaigns.
But Cortez Betancourt +pointed out that there are not enough urologists in Mexico (just under 2,000) and less than 20 percent of Mexican men over 45 get tested annually for prostate cancer.
“If detected and treated early, prostate cancer is curable,” said Leticia Aguilar, Mexican coordinator for the Latin American Movement against Prostate Cancer (Molacap).
“We need to get the word out so that more men will get tested and treated early.”