Renowned jazz legend Hugh Masekela ‏(Picture: Supplied)

What do Hugh Masekela, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Robert de Niro, Ben Stiller and David Lucas, an ‘ordinary guy’ from Johannesburg have in common?

Like many of the men you are in contact with daily, they have been diagnosed with prostate cancer. 

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in South African men, with more than 4000 men diagnosed annually. When detected early, prostate cancer survival rates are better than 98%. Find it late, and those survival rates drop below 26%.

“There is a lack of awareness and general knowledge about prostate cancer. Know the facts and take action early,” says Garron Gsell, chief executive and founder of the Men’s Foundation, which manages the Movember campaign in South Africa under license from the Movember Foundation.

“When it comes to their health, too many men don't talk and don't take action.  The tragedy is that many men have died early and unnecessarily because they didn’t reach out for help when they needed it.”

Movember is the leading global men’s health charity, funding over 1,200 projects in 21 countries worldwide – focusing on prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention.

“Know your family history and if you notice something isn’t feeling right, don’t put it off and hope it goes away.  Annual health checks are vital, along with a monthly testicular self-examination which can help make you aware of your body and able to note any changes,”Gsell says.

“We can’t afford to stay silent. We have one goal: to stop men dying too young. Join the global movement helping men live happier, healthier, longer lives. Help spread awareness and raise funds for men’s health. Sign up as a Mo Bro or Mo Sista at www.za.movember.com and be the difference in a man’s life.”

Prostate cancer survivor David Lucas says that until he had the disease, he would never have thought that anything positive could come out of it.

Lucas says the diagnosis has been a blessing in disguise. “I would have thought of it as a life sentence. But now I totally agree with Judge Neels Claassen who says that cancer patients are favoured by God.”

For someone whose cancer journey has not been easy due to delays in treatment and battles with medical aid, and who is still not completely clear of the disease, it may seem like a strange thing to say. But for Lucas who turned 60 in September, his cancer diagnosis in 2012 allowed him to make many positive decisions about his life.

“I have been given the time to make things right,” he says. “I am determined to really live for at least the next 20 years.

Lucas is the first to admit that the prostate examination is not pleasant, and that a positive diagnosis means some very embarrassing moments during treatment “but it is a whole lot more pleasant than dying too soon”.

“If I had diabetes, I would have to make a complete lifestyle change and to give up many of the things I love,” he says. 

“Now that I have prostate cancer, the biggest change in my life has been my determination to reach out to other men and to make them aware of the need for regular check-ups. Don’t let anything stand in the way of you getting the medical advice and care that you need.”

* Adapted from a Press Release