Hugh Masekela passed away on Tuesday, 23 January. According to a statement released by his family, the musician lost “a courageous and protracted battle with prostate cancer.”
Masekela had been receiving treatment for the disease since 2008, after doctors noticed a small “speck” on his bladder. Although the initial treatment in the early years since he was diagnosed appeared to be successful, he had to undergo surgery in 2016 because the cancer had spread. He also had another surgery in September 2017 in attempts to neutralise the cancer cells.
Speaking to media in 2017, Bra Hugh – as his fans knew him, said “I urge all men to have regular tests to check your own condition. Ask questions, demand answers and learn everything you can about this cancer, and tell others to do the same.”
But the question in minds of many South Africans, is what is prostrate cancer, and what causes it?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the world’s foremost authority on health matters, “cancer is a generic term for a large group of diseases that can affect any part of the body. Other terms used are malignant tumours and neoplasms.” The body says, one of the defining features of cancer is “the rapid creation of abnormal cells that grow beyond their usual boundaries, and which can then invade adjoining parts of the body and spread to other organs, the latter process is referred to as metastasizing. Metastases are a major cause of death from cancer.”
Prostate cancer then is understood “as the adenocarcinoma (a malignant tumour formed from glandular structures in epithelial tissue) of the prostate gland.” According to a study by Professor Maria Nieto and others, prostate cancer is the most common nondermatologic cancer in men worldwide.
There are no known causes for prostate cancer, though its occurrence increases with age; the disease is found in 30% of men older than 50 years and 50% of men older than 80 years, and is uncommon before 50 years.
Despite the cause of prostate cancer being unknown, “high levels of animal fat ingestion are associated with a higher risk of prostate cancer” – per a study conducted by William Aronson, Professor MD Chief of Urology at the UCLA/Olive View Medical Center. Also, according to Dr Chantal Babb at South Africa’s National Health Laboratory Services (NHLS), “prostate cancer is the most common cancer in South African men.”
Perhaps in “Bra Hugh’s” death, it may be instructive for South African men to heed his advice, and “have regular tests to check” their “ own [prostate] condition.”