Free prostate cancer screening for over 45s

Men can now receive free screening for prostate cancer, one of the most common cancers in the UAE.

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Abu Dhabi // Men can now receive free screening for prostate cancer, one of the most common cancers in the UAE. Daman, the national insurance company, has announced the inclusion of free annual prostate cancer screening in its enhanced plans for all men aged over 45. More than 1,500 men in the UAE are affected by this cancer. Earlier this year Daman said it would include breast cancer screening for women over 35 in its coverage.

Dr Michael Bitzer, the chief executive of Daman, said the company's latest move was based on evidence that early detection of prostate cancer gave a patient the best chance of survival. "Prostate cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in men and is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in men," he said. "We hope that by including the free screening in our plans, men will be encouraged to take the test, thus decreasing the spreading of such a disease."

The screening will include a clinical examination, a rectal sonogram which is a form of ultrasound imaging, and the prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test that can be done once a year. According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, when caught and treated early, the disease has a cure rate of more than 90 per cent. Screening can detect the cancer when there are no symptoms present and when treatment is most effective. There are also fewer side effects if the cancer is caught early.

Cancer is one of Abu Dhabi's three main public health challenges, together with heart disease and road deaths. This type of cancer only affects men as it attacks a gland in the male reproductive system. It usually develops in men over 50 but can strike even young men. One prostate cancer survivor welcomed the introduction of screening by Daman and urged people to get over any embarrassment it caused.

George Bartlett, a corporate governance specialist working in Abu Dhabi, said: "I was diagnosed with early onset prostate cancer in March of last year. "The cancer was only detected because I had been having annual screenings for a number of years, having registered a higher than normal PSA level during a regular health check almost a decade ago. "I am in no doubt that these annual screenings saved my life. Prostate cancer is still somewhat of a taboo subject but we need to move past a few moments of embarrassment in order to save lives."

munderwood@thenational.ae