Cancer is a leading cause of death in the United States and has touched almost every person in some way, whether it be directly or through loved ones. Prostate Cancer stands as the second most common cancer among men, as 1 in 9 men are likely to be diagnosed with it in their lifetime. The Movember movement focuses on men’s health issues and raises awareness to fight men’s health issues like prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health issues.
To raise awareness, the Movember Foundation began the movement of growing a mustache throughout the month of November. The Foundation began in 2003 when the founders Travis Garone and Luke Slattery had the idea to raise awareness to men’s issues by bringing back a once famous male style statement, the mustache.
The idea was to use the rebirth of the mustache as a conversation piece with the hope of men being able to start a dialogue about issues they may be facing and bring light to them rather than pushing them into the dark.
While the Movember movement is an important symbol, it must also be accompanied by education surrounding men’s health. Grow that mustache, and when someone asks you about it, tell them about the early signs and potential risk factors of prostate cancer. Encouraging men to get checked is another major component in tackling prostate cancer, as survival rates are associated with early detection.
If detected early, men have a 98% chance of survival beyond five years, opposed to a 26% chance if detected late. Males at the age of 50 should start the conversation with their doctors about Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) testing, which is a simple blood test. African American males and men who have a family history should begin the conversation with their doctor at 45, as they are at more of a risk.
In addition to prostate cancer, testicular cancer is commonly diagnosed among young men. While testicular cancer is highly treatable and typically cured, it is also important for it to be detected and treated early. Checks for testicular cancer can be done personally at the comfort of your own home and should be done regularly.
At the end of the day, if checked regularly, an abnormality will be much easier to detect and if detected an appointment with a doctor should follow. There’s no reason to gamble with your health and if it turns out to be nothing, then there is still no harm done. As our partner, Independence Blue Cross, said in a useful blog post: “Fellas, Invest in Yourself: Schedule a Checkup with a Doctor.”
In addition to physical health, we must also be willing to talk about mental health. Male suicide has become a growing problem in the United States, as suicide is four times higher among males than females, even though females experience depression roughly two times the rate of men. For years, men have been told to “be a man” about their feelings.
Talking about personal issues and mental health issues is something that should be encouraged among men rather than be seen as a sign of weakness or a masculinity litmus test. Most men feel uncomfortable when discussing these issues with their friends and it should be on all men to change this perception by being more open to these tough conversations.
Simple things like listening, asking questions, talking, and encouraging action could save lives and it is wonderful the Movember movement is bringing these ideas to the table. If there are no other options, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1–800–273–8255) as life is much more important than an unchangeable decision.
Beyond talking about it among ourselves, we must take the opportunity to also reach out to our legislators about the importance of men’s health funding and research. Growing the mustache is an opportunity to do more and say more.
While it may seem odd for a 20-year-old college student to preach about being checked for prostate cancer and testicular cancer, it is important to get the conversations needed going early to save lives that will affect our brothers, fathers, uncles, and grandfathers. So, this November, drop the razor and give a mustache a go as awareness is a vital start to face these issues in the male community today!
This blog post was written for Ridge Policy Group by Michael Paisley, our policy intern in the Washington, DC office.