Attention all Barbadian men and the women who love them: There are no more reasons to fear getting your prostate gland checked for cancer.
Last week, International doctors announced they were on the verge of a groundbreaking cancer-testing mechanism with 95 per cent accuracy- from a finger-prick of blood.
This could mean that live-saving prostate testing is now as simple as getting your blood sugar tested.
The new technique, known as liquid biopsy, is expected to significantly reduce the prostate cancer epidemic on the island, indeed everywhere it is introduced.
According to Professor of Medicine at Yale University, Irvin Modlin, liquid biopsy will allow for tumours to be detected “two to three years before they can be identified by imagery and other types of technology”, allowing for doctors to pick up the disease much earlier.
The technique has reportedly been used in the United States and across Europe.
The breakthrough will no doubt warm the hearts of thousands of middle-aged and older Barbadian males who have avoided prostate cancer testing because of the dreaded finger in a proctology exam.
Barbados has one of the highest number and most aggressive incidents of prostate cancer in the world. And too many cases are detected too late.
Prostate cancer is not only rampant in Barbados.
It is the most common type of cancer in the United States and is the second-most common cause of cancer deaths among American men after lung cancer.
The US National Cancer Institute says about one in five men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lives and almost 30,000 men in the US will die from it this year alone.
Worldwide, prostate cancer is also the second most diagnosed cancer in men. New cases are on the rise in all populations across the European continent.
Men have been shying away from the simple exam primarily because it involves a doctor inserting a finger inside their anus.
The stigma and fear of rectal exams keep many men who need to be checked avoiding the urologist’s office at all costs.
In most cases, males contend that such an exercise is emasculating and homophobic reactions are not far from the surface for many Barbadian men – even if one of the most preventable causes of death can be neutralised by a simple physical exam than the blood tests for PSA – or Prostate-Specific Antigen – are often inaccurate and inconclusive.
Dangerously though, prostate cancer is often asymptomatic, meaning it shows no symptoms. Many people put off their screenings until something in their plumbing goes awry. When they do get a diagnosis, the disease has advanced several stages.
But it is not only prostate cancer screening that men avoid.
Only yesterday, Clinical Director of the Barbados Family Planning Association (BFPA), Dr Rashida Daisley, revealed that men were continuing to dodge a variety of critical consultations and medical tests.
A worrying trend indeed.
BFPA president Anderson Langdon said it was especially burdensome on men to sometimes seek help concerning sexual and reproductive issues.
Langdon said: “The benefits of maintaining good sexual and reproductive health for men is hardly spoken of. We only speak of men’s sexual and reproductive health when there is an inhibition on men to perform sexually or when they’re close to death. This is just a fact.
“The impact on a man of negative manifestations of sexual and reproductive issues in our society is equally as impactful as it is on our women.
“Men in Barbadian society are still seen as the main breadwinners in their households and there is no doubt that the loss of a male is severely impactful on the economics of the household.”
The truth is that while women are seemingly more willing to seek medical attention when necessary, men more often than not will turn a blind eye.
But in an age of medical technology where once fatal diseases can be picked up with the beep of a machine, it is time for men to step up to the plate to protect their role in the lives of loved ones.
Hopefully, soon, one prick is all it will take.