On July 15th, ‘Man’s Day’ is celebrated, a date that seeks to draw society’s attention to male health care. Therefore, Astellas Farma Brasil joined the Brazilian Society of Urology (SBU) to renew the ‘Treat Made with Health’ campaign, with the purpose of raising public awareness about male-related diseases and conditions, such as prostate cancer and urinary symptoms, in addition to demystifying taboos on prevention tests, which are responsible for diagnosing diseases in early stages, when there is greater chance of recovery and cure.
According to the National Policy for Integral Attention to Men’s Health, defined by the Ministry of Health, several comparative studies between men and women have proven the fact that men are more vulnerable to diseases, especially serious and chronic ones. This is because men do not often seek primary health care services, mainly due to gender stereotypes. Rooted for centuries in our culture, these ideas enhance the view that health care can be seen as a sign of fragility¹. According to the same document, male resistance increases not only the financial burden of society, but also the physical and emotional suffering of the patient and his family¹.
The survey ‘A New Look at Men’s Health’, carried out by the Lado a Lado Institute, in partnership with Veja Saúde magazine and with the support of Astellas, corroborates the information collected by the Ministry of Health. The data show that almost 37% of men up to 39 years old, and 20% of those over 40, admit visiting a professional only when they feel bad. In addition, although 37% of respondents see the urologist as a man’s doctor, 59% of them do not usually visit this professional. According to the medical director of Astellas Dr. Roberto Soler, these data demonstrate the population’s lack of knowledge. “Unfortunately, there is little information that is accessible and easy for the public to understand. The Ministry of Health’s Comprehensive Men’s Health Policy, although still useful, has outdated content, as it was published in 2008.”
Urological conditions that affect men
Among the urological conditions that can afflict men, especially after age 50, are prostate cancer and lower urinary tract symptoms. It is important to emphasize that prostate cancer, when diagnosed early, has more than a 90% chance of cure².
Lower urinary tract symptoms, on the other hand, despite being generally related to a benign condition of the prostate or bladder, considerably affect the quality of life of patients, as they can lead to frequent need to urinate, difficulty in completely emptying the bladder and even urinary incontinence (loss of urine), making daily activities difficult or impossible. However, there is a simple treatment, with few side effects, available to care for the condition¹.
Unfortunately, prostate cancer does not have prevention methods, as it develops due to genetic factors and, especially, aging. However, it is possible to obtain an early diagnosis through routine tests, such as the PSA, which is performed with a simple blood collection and a digital rectal examination, which may indicate the need for a prostate biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.
It is recommended that men take preventive exams from the age of 50, however, for those with a family history of the disease and black men, who have an incidence of two to three times higher than the rest of the male population, it is advisable to seek a urologist from 45 years old ³. It is important to mention that prostate cancer does not show symptoms in its early stages, which is why screening is so necessary.
Myths and taboos around treatment
It is also essential that the taboos that still exist around the disease, and especially the touch test, are demystified. According to the survey cited, 35% of respondents have never had a DRE. “The exam is very simple and quick, but unfortunately there is a lot of prejudice among men, who still relate touching with the loss of masculinity or virility. However, this is one of the most common tests and allows the doctor to feel a part of the prostate and notice if there is any alteration in the organ that needs further investigation”, explains Dr. Soler.
In addition to the myths surrounding preventive exams, the Manual for Integral Attention to Men’s Health also points out that there is still resistance to chronic or long-term treatments, which end up with less adherence by men.
This is the case, for example, for men who have advanced prostate cancer. The therapy ends up requiring a great commitment from the patient and, usually, impacts on changing lifestyle and behavioral habits. Therefore, it is not uncommon for men to drop out of health care, even in the case of prostate cancer.
“In the past, available technologies were more aggressive. Today, there is a lot of innovation in the market, more modern and technological treatments, such as oral chemotherapy, which can be performed at home, providing more comfort and better quality of life for patients and their families”, comments the Astellas medical director.
Another crucial point currently being discussed is the adaptation of healthcare to the care and treatment of prostate cancer in all types of people, including the LGBTQIA+ community. We must take into account plurality, including cisgender homosexual men and trans women. “Although the treatment is the same for everyone, the reception of doctors and staff during consultations, exams and procedures is essential for these people to feel free to take care of their own health, without fear of suffering prejudice”, concludes Dr. Soler .
For more information about the ‘Trato Feito’ campaign, access: https://tratofeitocomasaude.com.br/
Spokesperson Biography: Dr. Roberto Soler is a urologist and medical director of Astellas Farma Brasil (AFB). He holds a PhD from the Federal University of São Paulo – UNIFESP, and is a postdoctoral fellow in Regenerative Medicine and Uropharmacology from Wake Forest University.
MINISTRY OF HEALTH (2008). National Policy for Comprehensive Attention to Man.
²¹Prostate Cancer. Lado a Lado pela Vida Institute. Available at: https://www.ladoaladopelavida.org.br/cancer-de-prostata Last accessed on 07.07.21
³ Novembro Azul guides about prostate cancer Available at: https://portaldaurologia.org.br/publico/novembro-azul/novembro-azul-orienta-sobre-o-cancer-de-prostata/ Last accessed on 13.07.21
About Astellas Farma Brasil
Astellas Farma Brasil, an affiliate of Astellas Pharma Inc, located in Tokyo, Japan, is a pharmaceutical company dedicated to improving the health of people around the world through the provision of innovative and reliable pharmaceutical products. Astellas Farma Brasil focuses on Urology, Oncology, Onco-hematology, Immunology and Infectious Diseases as its main therapeutic areas. Astellas is at the forefront of healthcare change to turn innovative science into patient value.