Friday, November 7, 2014

Movember - Creating Prostate Cancer Awareness

Men around the world view this month as ‘Movember’, formerly November, a time to reflect on men’s health, especially as it concerns Prostate Cancer, Testicular Cancer, and Mental Health. The idea for Movember was created by 30 men out of Melbourne, Australia in 2003. It has now touched over 4 million men and women around the world. During the month of Movember, men are encouraged to grow mustaches to create awareness; becoming essentially walking, talking billboards for men's health. With guidance from the Movember Foundation each area creates its own events and fundraisers thereby spreading the message. As a direct result of these worldwide activities, over 800 new men’s health programs in 21 countries costing $559 million have been implemented.

So why is Movember so important? Just in the United States in 2014 it’s projected there will be more than 233,000 new cases of prostate cancer, and 29,480 men will die from the disease. Simply put, men in the US have a 1 in 7 chance of being diagnosed with Prostate Cancer during their lifetime. There are also areas in the US harder hit than others. If you live in many of the Southeastern United States your chances of having Prostate Cancer are much greater, and surprisingly Washington State has a higher incidence rate than many others.

In a global view, the US rates so poorly compared to the rest of the world. It’s ranked 14th in the World for the highest incidence of Prostate Cancer only beat out by such countries as France, Norway, Sweden, Australia, Ireland and Switzerland. Considering our level of massive medical funding this is a poor testament to the direction our country is headed. Prostate Cancer is rare before the ages of 40, but appears mostly in men over 65. It has about the same incidence as Breast Cancer in the US with 233,000 new Prostate Cancer cases projected for 2014 versus 235,030 new Breast Cancer cases projected. It does appear to have a better long-term prognosis than Breast Cancer. During 2014 it’s projected that 29,480 men will die of Prostate Cancer versus 40,430 women dying of Breast Cancer. In 2011 there were 2,707,821 estimated cases of men living with Prostate Cancer within the US.

So why are we allowing this travesty to happen? Make no mistake; we have choice in the matter. Aside from the Standard American Diet (SAD) that has been causing crippling obesity and diabetes at skyrocketing rates while setting the foundation for Prostate Cancer, men just don’t talk about the disease. It’s as if the word ‘Prostate’ designated something perverse. Or maybe men are reluctant to discuss their problems with societies pressure to remain tuff and strong. Heaven forbid someone should say they need help until the last moment before it’s too late to do anything easy to correct the problem. Then there is the age factor. The average age a man is diagnosed with Prostate Cancer is 66. This is often considered by the young, an age where men are less productive, out of the limelight. So if they can’t be seen or heard, why bother with trying to help or even discuss a somewhat sexually oriented topic? Why worry about something that is often years in the future?

What people fail to acknowledge is that each man dying of Prostate Cancer diminishes our entire society. No longer are we able to rely on their wisdom and experience gathered over years of life. Nor will they be able to contribute to their families shared experience in terms of support and love. Most often when a man dies of Prostate Cancer, a widow is born. This does not bode well for stability in our society. Then there are the exorbitant treatment costs associated with Prostate Cancer. Annually in the US we spend over $12B with projections running as high as $15B by the year 2020 for Prostate Cancer Treatment. What do you think numbers like this do to our insurance costs, our economy?

As mentioned before we have choice in the matter. The first step starts with the open discussion about Prostate Cancer. Here is where the Movember Foundation becomes so important. They provide the vehicle to get the word out about Prostate Cancer while funding so many research projects around the world seeking a cure. Once awareness is created, then we may start to ask the question, why Prostate Cancer is so out of control in the US compared with much of the world. Through this process we start to understand that we are able to reduce the incidence of Prostate Cancer through simple diet and lifestyle changes. Then we start to look for new, safer ways to diagnose the disease. Today there are around 750,000 unnecessary or inaccurate Prostate Cancer Biopsies performed in the US when there already exists a safe approved Alternative with a 99.3% accuracy rate. The problem is, although it could save US patients $1.6B in testing costs with a lot less pain and patient risk, it’s just too new to be covered by insurance. When we know more about situations such as this we begin to ask… Why? Why are we holding back on medical improvements that would help so many? And who really benefits from retaining the old ways? We may also begin to understand there are alternative healing approaches that need to be properly explored. Certainly anything that reduces the pain and suffering of Prostate Cancer is worth investigating regardless of weather it’s patentable by a drug manufacturer. It all starts with awareness! When I was under 45, I never gave Prostate Cancer a thought. In those days it wasn’t even in the news. Now at 65 and dealing with Prostate Cancer, I wish I knew then what I know now. Fortunately for our son I still have time to pass the information on that will change his life for the better. This is Movember’s greatest gift to our society. It’s opened the door to start the discussion that leads to hope and a healthier future.

To find out more about what’s happening with Movember in Seattle go to the Movember Facebook Page, or follow on Twitter.  For those who want to contribute directly to the work Movember is doing, go to their Donation Site. If you live in or near Seattle and are interested in a Prostate Cancer Support Group where you may ask questions, explore all forms of healing options, and share stories, while in a safe friendly environment contact me at for details. The first meeting is scheduled for Sunday, December 7th at 3:00pm in North Seattle.