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  • Chapters 1 to 5
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The Impacts of Journalism in Promoting Awareness About Prostate Cancer





As Akpan (2006, p. 1) notes, one of the scientific developments of the 19th century was the utilization of the air wave to establish a worldwide communication system.  Broadcasting is one of the several means of getting message to a large of people at the same time.  It is made up of the conventional medium of television and radio.  Heads (1985) cited in Akpan (2006, p.9) gives some of the attributes of broadcasting as ubiquity, immediacy, voracity, flexibility, voluntaries, interference and potential for social control.

It is thus these attributes that campaigns and communication strategists explore to advantages.  One of such campaigns is the campaign against breast cancer in Nigeria.

The principal role of broadcasting in development is that of providing relevant information, (Akpan 2006, p.14).  This can be done in a number of ways using a broad variety of formats which include:  straight news, group discussions, testimonial type of interviews, magazines and combined entertainment information format, spot announcement, radio drama serials, etc.

Several studies provide that broadcasting has served the Nigeria public well in its contribution towards the development of health conscious attitude and practices.  Akpan, 2006, p.4, Udeajah 2003, p. 1 – 3)

As Green (2009, p. 6) notes, news is information of importance to greater number of the citizenry.  Thus health news like that on breast cancer is very important to the citizenry considering the saying that health is wealth. The broadcaster reportage of such news therefore tasks the journalist’s objectivity, fairness and ethical balance (Ugwunna, 2010, p. 15).

In his study of the television media’s role in the fight against breast cancer, Nnanna (2008, p. 19) notes, “The media’s life saving mission to raise awareness about early detection and the prevention of breast cancer is so important.  It helps to take the message to people across the country through a campaign utilizing vast broadcast platforms.”

According to him, such campaigns engage a wide range of audiences across local, national and international broadcast stations, encouraging women across the country to embrace early detection plan.  Thus, such broadcast contents inspire women to act, and this action may save their lives.

The sheer prevalence of disease and mortality, makes breast cancer compelling to the news media.  It is evenly a high profile news topic after a dramatic increase in coverage over the third of the twentieth century (Corbete & Mori, 1999, p.176).         Breast cancer has gained substantially more coverage than other major diseases (Kitzinger, 2000, p. 11).

Studies indicate that the general public relies on the mass media as a leading source for health information (Martinson & Hindman, 2005; Reagan & Collins, 1987) the studies also prove that media message contribute to health knowledge (Salmon & Akin, 2003).  Studies examining health information sources show that the public uses differing channels, depending on background, characteristics and health needs (Maibach & Parrot, 1995; Mashall & Smith 1995).  In the most recent study comparing communication sources of health information, Dutta (2004, p. 19) discovered that active retrieval channels (Newspapers, magazine, internet) are the primary sources for health oriented individuals, while passive consumption channels (television, radio) serve those who are less health conscious.


He concluded that the television media are best suited for prevention campaigns, particularly, if the message feature entertainment and education.

2.2 Cancer: A Genetic Disease

Hundreds of thousand people die as a result of cancerous tumor yearly. Mutations in genes that control cell growth and division are responsible for cancer.

However, the causes of cancers are still unclear to scientists and major findings have shown that most atimes cancers are genetic in nature. Cancer is not a single disease, it is a group of diseases, it can originate from many different tissues of the body, while some have aggressive growth, and others have slow growth. While some can be stopped from spreading, others cannot (Peter & Michael, 2010, p. 4).

Over the years, researches have shown that lung cancer is the most prevalent type of cancer, this is as a result of the effects of cigarette smoking. Prostate and breast cancers are also common. The death rate as a result of cancer is continuously on the increase, enormous efforts on the part of medical doctors have been on how to reduce it (Peter & Michael, 2010, p. 4).

The human body is made up of millions of cells, these cells houses our genetic material. The human cell contains 46 chromosomes (23 pairs), half of these chromosomes are inherited from each of our parents. The chromosomes contain the body’s blueprint (genes). However, these genes are responsible for human traits and when altered or mutated, give a higher risk for uncontrolled cell growth. This cell growth can lead to the growth of a tumor. These genes are called different names, but the gene that is responsible for the growth of cancer tumor is referred to as “cancer susceptibility genes”(Walsh & Worthington 2003, p. 34).

As earlier mentioned, strong evidences have shown that the major underlying causes of cancers are genetic. First, when cancer cells are grown in culture, their descendants are all cancerous. This means that, the cancerous condition is transmitted from each cell to its daughters at the time of division. This phenomenon clearly indicates that cancer has a genetic basis. Secondly, some type of viruses can induce the formation of tumors in experimental animals. The induction of cancer by viruses implies that the proteins encoded by viral genes are involved in the production of the cancerous state. Thirdly, cancer can be induced by agents capable of causing mutations. Fourthly, certain type of cancer tends to run in families, finally, certain types of white blood cell cancers (leukemia and lymphomas) are associated with particular chromosomal aberrations. In a nutshell, these diverse observations strongly suggested that cancer is caused by genetic malfunctions. (Michael, 2010, p. 662)

In the 1980s when molecular genetics techniques were first used to study cancer cells, researchers discovered that cancerous state is indeed traceable to specific genetic malfunctions (defects). However, several of such defects are required for a normal working cell to be converted to a cancerous cell. The researchers discovered that two broad classes of genes can contribute to the formation of cancerous cell, they are the oncogene and tumor suppressor gene (Michael, 2010, p. 663).

2.3 Prostate Cancer: What it is all About.

Approximately 5 to 1 percent of all prostate cancers are known to be attributed to an inherited DNA change, such as the cancer susceptibility gene. Recent research has pointed out that, there is a set of common DNA variations that lead to a higher risk of inherited prostate cancer in African American men (Peter & Michael, 2010, p. 13).

The panic of having prostate cancer can be overwhelming to most men. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men. But the good news is that it can be treated when detected early enough. In 2008, the American Cancer Society pointed out that: About, Ninety-one percent of all prostate cancers are discovered while they are either localized (confined to the prostate) or regional (nearby).  The society also noted that, the five-year survival rate for men diagnosed with prostate tumors discovered at these stages is 99 percent, and in the past 20 years, the five-year survival rate for all stages combined has increased from 67 percent to 99 percent (American Cancer Society, 2008).

In the same year, American Cancer Society (ACS) recorded about 186,320 new cases of prostate cancer in the US. Also, about 28,660 deaths occurring from prostate cancer in the US alone, making it the second leading cause of cancer death in men (American Cancer Society, 2008).

The prostate is a sex gland found in men. It is small in size, about the size of a walnut, and surrounds the neck of the bladder and urethra. The urethra is a tube like organ that carries urine from the bladder and out through the penis. It is muscular, with ducts opening into the prostatic portion of the urethra. It is made up of three lobes: a center lobe with one lobe on each side. The prostate gland secretes a slightly alkaline fluid that forms part of the seminal fluid, a fluid that carries sperm (Walsh & Worthington, 1995, p. 23).

In a study carried out by Ifere and Ananaba, in 2012  on the emergent trends in the reported incidence of prostate cancer in Nigeria, observed that there is a  high incidence rates for prostate cancer among patients aged 60–69 years and 70– 79 years, and  lower incidence rate for patients aged younger than 50 years.

In another study done by Obiora, and Nwosu, (2011,p.14) on carcinoma of the prostate in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, observed that Carcinoma was diagnosed in 198 specimens representing 37.4% of the 529 cases reviewed. Of these, 164 (82.8%) were clinical carcinoma (having been found in clinically suspected carcinoma cases for which tricot biopsies were undertaken), while 34 (17.2%) were incidental carcinoma cases (being found in prostatectomy biopsy cases of patients clinically diagnosed with nodular hyperplasia).

Prostate cancer is not only restricted to old age. If prostate cancer is detected early, men can be cured of it and have a normal life. The prostate which is muscular and wall nut in shape, about an inch and a half long and it is directly under the bladder with a major function of manufacturing fluid that makes up semen. However, during orgasm, the prostate muscles contract and force this fluid produced in the prostate into the urethra. The prostate changes with age, when a man is in his mid 40s, the wall-nut shape tends to enlarge. Records have it that every three minutes, a new case of prostate cancer is diagnosed in the United States and every fifteen minutes, a man dies from it.  A boy born today has a 13 percent chance of developing prostate cancer and a 3 percent chance of dying from it.

Except for skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men (Thomas, 2011, p. 56).

More than 80 percent of men diagnosed of prostate cancer are over 65 years old. Due to lack of awareness, it has been reported that medically, most men found out they had prostate cancer when it has advanced and they died few years later.

The incidence of prostate cancer increases with age more rapidly than the incidence of any other form of cancer. Epidemiologic studies show a forty-fold rise in the prevalence of prostate cancer from ages 50 to 85. However, with better medicine, diet and exercise, and less smoking, the incidence can be reduced. (Thomas, 2011, p. 22)

There seems to be a close link between a family history of prostate cancer and a man’s risk of developing it. In a recent research carried out by some scientists at Johns Hopkins, showed the undeniable link between a family history of prostate cancer and man’s probability of developing the disease. The study showed that if your father or brother has prostate cancer, your risk is two times greater than the average American man’s which is about 13 percent. It increases depending on the number of affected relatives you have and the age at which they developed prostate cancer for instance:


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