The national campaign for prostate cancer awareness was officially launched yesterday at the Savoy Seychelles Resort and Spa.

The event was graced by the presence of President Wavel Ramkalawan, Vice-President Ahmed Afif, ministers and other male counterparts from the government, parastatal and private sectors.

According to the World Health Organisation, prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer recorded worldwide. In 2020 alone, more than 1.4 million cases of prostate cancer were detected making it the third most common cancer type for 2020 preceded only by lung and colorectal cancer.

The Minister for Employment and Social Affairs, Patricia Francourt, remarked in her opening speech that “Our Seychellois men have not been spared from the global trends. In 2018, 127 cancer cases were detected out of which 49% were prostate cancer. In 2019, the figures increased to 136 cancer cases in total for men but a lesser 23% cases represented prostate cancer.

This type of cancer is most prevalent in male aged 50 years and above but it is unfortunate to note that such cases have also been detected in younger persons. According to the latest estimates from the National Bureau of Statistics, there are currently 20,039 men in Seychelles aged 45 years and above in our population. A large number of them represent the prime working age of our workforce and are contributing to the economy and supporting their families.

Minister Francourt talked about the various researches done on prostate cancer and placed much emphasis on early detection as this leads to successful recovery.

“As such this campaign is also an opportune time to gain more information about what is prostate cancer, its symptoms and what are the tools and treatment for it. Creating awareness, removing taboo and educating all, especially our men, is the goal of this awareness campaign being launched today which will mark the beginning of a whole year’s worth of effort directed at our men”.

Minister Francourt took the opportunity to say a few words to the men: “Do not be afraid to come forward for testing, educate yourself on the subject and be mindful of the signs and symptoms of prostate cancer. Your health is important and it is for this reason that the Ministry of Employment and Social Affairs is continually engaging with employers and workers alike on the importance of occupational safety and health in their workplaces. Each should take responsibility for their safety and each one of you has a special role to play. I urge you therefore to take time to relax, to re-align and self-care emotionally, mentally and physically; know your body and notice the changes if any.

“I say again come forward, be tested and put your mind at peace, as they say a troubled mind is a double-minded mind and much stress becomes present.”

President Ramkalawan recalled that some ten years ago, in the National Assembly, they talked about men’s health. “It seems that men feel that they are in a different category and when we fall, it is the fall of Humpty-Dumpty and we cannot be fixed. Men are ashamed to come forward compared to women who start doing tests and visit doctors from a very young age. Men also participate in the exercise of procreation and all the tests are done on women. Today we have to change the message. We have to have an educational programme for men to educate them about their body. We have to change our attitude as when a man does his test, we have to support the men instead of having negative comments. Let us look at the different parts of our body as a whole. Unfortunately many men with prostate cancer discovered their disease at the last stage, whereas if detected early it can be cured.”

President Ramkalawan also shared stories of victims from prostate cancer and their struggle. “I want to share with you all that I do my tests every year as I am interested to know my health status and if there is an issue, it can be detected early. I do my test because I have a wife and three children and I have responsibilities. My message to all men is to go get examined and to make sure our health comes first. The government is working to set up a centre where more cases can be detected and the plan is to have a centre in Anse Royale where it will be linked with some centres in the USA. Let us realise that prostate cancer is one of the cancers that is killing more of us. Let us prevent that and let us take it as our responsibility to move in a positive attitude and do our prostate-specific antigen (PSA), mainly if we are above 40 years old!”

As concluding remarks, the Minister for Local Government and Community Affairs, Rose-Marie Hoareau, noted that the event of yesterday was informative and successful. “I know each one of us will walk out the room today having learnt something valuable. Let us walk back in our community to increase awareness of prostate cancer. As we undertake the fight against this disease, I urge you to share this knowledge with your loved ones, your friends, your colleagues and the people in your community. This will create awareness with aim of encouraging men to undergo medical checks. Prostate cancer affects almost as many men as breast cancer affects women. We have some work to do in regard of awareness of prostate cancer in order to initiate some campaigns. So much pain and sufferings can be avoided by early detection of this disease! We would like to see all sectors and communities come together with the aim of disseminating information and creating much awareness as possible!”

Minister Hoareau also shared that men can contact their respective clinics for more info and get their test done.

Archbishop French Chang-Him blessed this event and also shared his testimony as a cancer patient and also about his brother who he lost to prostate cancer.

During yesterday’s event, registered nurse Gina Laporte, Urologist Joshua Gopal and June Jean, a registered nurse specialised in urology gave a thorough presentation on prostate cancer and the different stages.


Vidya Gappy

Photos by Joena Meme