When it comes to cancer awareness, ,because it is so well publicized, most of us think of breast cancer and the pink ribbon. Campaigns for breast cancer, which affects more women than any other type, have been highly visible and thankfully embraced. However, the cancers that most affect men—prostate and testicular—do not receive nearly the same amount of needed publicity.
For example, many don’t realize that like breast exams for women, it is imperative that men have regular prostate and testicular exams. What most people don’t know is that November—or Movember as it has come to be known— is prostate cancer awareness month, identified by a blue ribbon…and a mustache. The funny name came from Mo, which is how a mustache is referred to in Australia. Since 2003, men have grown mustaches in November to bring awareness to the disease and other men’s health concerns.
According to the national men’s health movement, Movember Foundation, a resource for prostate and testicular cancer and men’s mental health,, “The state of men’s health is in crisis. Men experience worse long term health concerns than women and die on average six years earlier. Prostate cancer rates will double in the next 15 years. Testicular cancer rates have already doubled in the last 50.”
Adds Dr. Erwin Posadas, the Medical Director of the Urologic Oncology Program at Cedars –Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, more than 200,000 cases are diagnosed annually, and more than 27,000 men die from this disease every year. Prostate cancer is most prominent in men over the age of 50, and is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in men.
He also notes that while the frequency of testicular cancer is lower than prostate cancer, if untreated it is far more aggressive. The average age of men who are diagnosed with testicular cancer is 33 years old and of the 8,000 men diagnosed annually, 400 will not survive.
Dr. Posadas is very much an advocate of men’s health, and believes that lifestyles matter. He states that healthier men who eat a nutritious diet, exercise regularly and have a leaner body mass are following good rules of prevention—and always respond better to treatment.
He also urges men to be aware of and take care of their health and see a doctor for regular checkups. Dr. Posadas knows that when his patients see him regularly, there are far more reasons to be hopeful rather than fearful.
And if someone is diagnosed with a disease, Dr. Posadas believes that the element of hope and the will to fight are of utmost importance. He says, “Men need to maintain a positive outlook on life. When they lose that sense of purpose, they lose the desire to live and cancers will overtake them.”
“There are a lot of things in medicine that we don’t understand yet,” he goes on. “But I’ve seen it too many times to not believe that the human spirit is even stronger than any medicine that we can give.”
As serious as both prostate and testicular cancer are, there is another leading cause of death among men that flies well under the radar and that’s suicide. Says the Movember Foundation: “Three quarters of suicides are men. Poor mental health leads to half a million men taking their own lives every year. That’s one every minute.” A tragic tale indeed and since many mental health issues are diagnosable and treatable, serious life threatening situations including suicidal tendencies can be minimized by regular visits to the doctor as well as support groups and lifestyle changes.
In addition to making appointments with a doctor, therapist or counselor, here are some suggestions from the Movember Foundation on how to look after your mental health:
Make man time.
Stay connected. Your friends are important and spending time with them is good for you. Check in and catch up regularly.
Share what’s going on, especially if you are feeling overwhelmed.
You don’t need to be an expert and you don’t have to be the sole solution, but being there for someone, listening and giving your time can be life saving.
4. Make plans
Do more of the things that make you feel great and help you to de-stress.
Men, by nature, are less likely to ask questions or make time to take care of their health, but it is imperative that they start understanding the importance of these life-threatening diseases. Getting all of the information is a lot different than stopping for directions at a gas station—we know, that was pre-GPS and Waze but you understand our point. Become educated to save yourself or someone you know.