Vincent Ayallo Nyandiegi 75, was enjoying his sunset years when his bladder started acting up.
I lost my medical cover after retirement in 1997. In 2006, I decided to get a new cover and went in for a consultation at a local insurance company.
Among the medical tests they required was a prostate exam. Screening is done through a blood test for prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels in the blood.
I was informed that the PSA testing could be affected by age, size of the prostate gland on examination, certain medications I could be on and recent sexual activity.
The test showed that I had a measure of PSA 6. The medic did not explain what this meant and so I went my way thinking it wasn’t a big deal.
In 2014, I noticed that I was visiting the toilet more times than usual at night. I would go to the toilet, pass a little urine, return to bed and feel like going again … about five times in one night.
I went to see a doctor who insisted on a cancer screening. The test showed that I had enlarged prostate glands. My PSA level was 85. The doctor explained that I had advanced prostate cancer.
Two weeks later, I went for another test. I wanted a second opinion. The PSA was 128. A fortnight later, it had gone up to 148.
Then, I became frantic. I started running around, looking for help. All the doctors told me that I had advanced cancer and I should take action as soon as possible.
The medical cost was too much though, about Sh 1.8 million.
An oncologist advised me to go for either radiotherapy or thermotherapy. But, because the cancer was localised, he recommended radiotherapy. Fortunately, the cancer hadn’t spread.
My oncologist advised that I could start treatment, and pay in installments. In December 2014, I started radiotherapy and hormonal therapy.
I started with a hormonal therapy session then 35 chemotherapy sessions in 51 days. Thereafter, I continued with hormonal therapy every three months.
Before I completed radiotherapy, they tested and found that my PSA levels had come down from 148 to 1.9.
That meant that the radiotherapy had worked. I was advised that I go for a test and a hormonal injection every three months. To date, I still get the jabs and the PSA has remained below 2.
The oncologist told me that had I started treatment when the PSA was 6, they would have done minor surgery and not needed additional treatments.
Because of the delayed action, I have spent my life savings on treatment. Had the cancer spread, I would be telling a different story.
Cancer is costly, especially if it is detected after it has advanced. It is also an emotionally-exhausting experience.
I want people to go for checks, and know that if cancer is detected early, lives and life-savings can be saved.
Prostate cancer minutiae
Prostate cancer is abnormal uncontrolled cell growth in the prostate gland. The exact cause of prostate cancer is not known, but scientists link it to increased levels of testosterone among risk factors like age and heredity.
Early prostate cancer usually has no symptoms, but in its advanced stage, the symptoms are:Constantly feeling the need to pass urine, especially at night Little urine production Difficulty starting or stopping urine stream Weak stream when passing urine or interrupted urine flow Leaking urine Incomplete voiding of bladder after urination
Less common symptoms areBlood in urine Pain when passing urine Difficulty getting an erection
Reduce your chances by:Ceasing alcohol consumption Eating a healthy diet Being physically active reduces the chance by 30-50 per cent
Deborah Modi, the Executive Director of the Kenya Cancer Association
A prostate self-examinationWear a sterile glove Rest on your side with your knees up or stand inclining forward with your hips flexed. You or your partner will use a forefinger for the exam. Make sure your fingernails are trimmed. Grease the glove with Vaseline or KY Jelly and insert the finger into the rectum. Turn the finger in a circular motion. Feel for any knocks, rough texture or sensitivity. These are abnormal signs that could signify disease. Use delicate pressure at first, and then slowly increase the pressure as you move around. Feel the mass of your rectum toward your tummy. Your prostate lies above/before this segment of your rectal divider.
Note: This self-examination should not replace expert medical help and PSA.