Prostate cancer (PCa) has become the most prevalent cancer among males in Nigeria, and similar to other black populations, Nigerian men present with more advanced disease at an earlier age than in several other ethnic groups. In this unscreened, high-risk group, the reference range for early detection and diagnosis as well as risk factors need to be determined through large-scale screening. Over 4 years, 1124 previously unscreened men between 40 and 85 years of age were screened at free community health programmes for PCa, using the common parameters of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) plus digital rectal examination (DRE). We thereby assessed the practicality and importance of screening. Consent was obtained, demographic data obtained, PSA measured using qualitative laboratory kits, and DRE performed by surgeons.
We found that the number of men attending and consenting to screening increases from year to year. Of 40–85-year-old men, 85.4% consented, of whom 33.3% (a third) and 60% were 51–60 years old and 51–65 years, respectively. While 11.5% of men had PSA >4 ng/ml, 31.45% showed abnormal DRE. Of the men who took the PSA test, 79.2% also consented to the DRE, of whom 5.8% had combined abnormal DRE and PSA >4 ng/ml.
Our findings suggest that Nigerian men are a willing group for screening by both the PSA and DRE with the positive response to calls for health screening and interest in prostate health. The finding of PSA >4 ng/ml in 11.15% of this population reveals the need for greater awareness and measures to increase early detection. However, the value and validity of established PSA reference ranges and cutoff of ‘normal’ still need to be established. Screening is very important to better define the PCa prevalence and characteristics in our population;
otherwise political and economic circumstances will ensure that men still present late with aggressive PCa.