WILMINGTON – TEWKSBURY - Body hair as a conduit for cancer awareness? Absolutely. The Moustache, or better yet, the ‘mo’, has ascended new heights of fashion and health conciousness in recent years with the advent of Movember, thirty days of mo’ growing and raising awareness, and funds, for men’s health.
Movember.com is the website that brings the mo’ bros (men growing moustaches) together. The site is slightly tongue in cheek, makes the mo’ fashionable, and for many, makes it easier to talk about cancer that specifically affects men, prostate and testicular cancer.
“The moustache is to Movember what the walk-a-thon is to breast cancer - both raise awareness and open dialogues for people to discuss health with their doctors,” said one woman whose husband was recently diagnosed, and defeated, testicular cancer.
Moustaches are everywhere. On socks at a popular tween girls’ retail clothing brand, on baby pacifiers, earbuds, straw toppers, Christmas tree ornaments, even on a British Airways plane. Really. Individuals and corporations are going all out to put their money where their ‘stache is (sort of) and contributing to men’s health research and prevention of prostate and testicular cancer.
Men that wish to participate register at Movember.com and start Movember 1st clean shaven. For the rest of the month, these selfless and generous men, known as Mo Bros, groom, trim and wax their way into the annals of fine moustachery. Supported by the women in their lives, Mo Sistas, Movember Mo Bros raise funds by seeking out sponsorship for their Mo-growing efforts. Mo Bros effectively become walking, talking billboards for the 30 days of November. Through their actions and words they raise awareness by prompting private and public conversation around the often ignored issue of men’s health.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, testicular cancer occurs most often in men aged 20 to 39. Prostate cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in men. All men are at risk for prostate cancer, but older men, African-American men, and men with a family history of prostate cancer have a higher risk.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services men are 24 percent less likely than women to have visited a doctor within the past year. Men are also less likely to have lab tests conducted. When they do, it’s often to check specific complaints rather than have routine tests. As a result, participation in men’s screening programs is far lower than women’s programs. Privacy, pride, fear, and socioeconomic factors are contributors to this phenomenon.
Privacy and pride can’t save you from cancer but doctors can.
Prevention and early detection are the key to good health and a positive prognosis upon diagnosis. Waiting to see a physician until the symptoms of a disease appear often causes a host of problems: if disease is present, it may have spread, even becoming life-threatening if caught too late.
Waiting to see a doctor about those symptoms often comes with unintended financial costs directly attributed to the delay including the costs of hospitalization, surgery, testing, treatments and therapies, prescription drugs, follow up appointments, and more. Even having health insurance and short/long term disability through work can still leave a family swimming in medical bills from uncovered co-pays and deductibles.
According to the American Cancer Society, the average cost of a 30-day cancer drug prescription was more than $1,600 in 2006 and it’s even higher today. Many cancer drugs cost much more than drugs for other illnesses. Some of the newer cancer treatments can cost as much as $10,000 for a month’s supply. Usually co-pays for these drugs are much higher than other types of treatments.
Ultimately, the decision to save $50 on a co-pay for a routine well-care check up can cost big bucks down the road. Take time for that annual visit and changes become easier to spot, and treat, in the long run.
However, sometimes a diagnosis is missed even when making those regular visits. In that case, patients must follow their gut and seek a second opinion. For some cancers, particularly testicular, the symptoms are not obvious. Nagging pain, heaviness in a testicle, lower back pain, can all point to a tumor. Advice from those who’ve been there: seek a second opinion, “You aren’t married to your primary care doctor.”
Finally, be sure to know your family history. So many cancers, including prostate, have a strong genetic component.
According to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center “Family history is the strongest risk factor for prostate cancer. A man with one close relative (such as a father or brother) with prostate cancer has twice the risk of developing prostate cancer as a man with no family history. If two close male relatives (such as a brother and a father) are affected, a man’s lifetime risk of developing prostate cancer is increased five-fold.”
According to the American Cancer Society, a man’s risk for testicular cancer rises if a close male relative is diagnosed with it, but only about 3% of testicular cancer cases are actually found to occur in families. Most men with testicular cancer do not have a family history of the disease.
Bottom line, men should know and discuss family history of cancer with their doctor to help with early detection.
By helping generate some of those uncomfortable conversations under the light-hearted guise of moustachery, Movember participants work to save lives.
More than 1.9 Million Mo Bros and Mo Sistas (men and women) participate in Movember with formal campaigns in Australia, New Zealand, the US, Canada, the UK, South Africa, Ireland, Finland, the Netherlands, Spain, Denmark, Norway, Belgium and the Czech Republic. In 2011, over 854,000 Mo Bros and Mo Sistas around the world got on board, raising $126.3 million USD.
“No matter the country or city, Movember will continue to work to change established habits and attitudes men have about their health, to educate men about the health risks they face, and to act on that knowledge, thereby increasing the chances of early detection, diagnosis and effective treatment,” says the organization.