I always look forward to celebrating Movember with my friends, family, and co-workers. Beyond the fact that mustaches are just plain fun to look at, I find immeasurable joy in supporting my male friends (a.k.a. mercilessly ridiculing them) as they compete for the grandest or creepiest style. But what makes me happiest about Movember is that all this silliness has a very important purpose: to spread knowledge and encourage open dialogue about men’s health, specifically prostate and testicular cancer.
This is an issue that has immense personal importance to me, since I lost the love of my life, my dad, to prostate cancer. But it also has universal significance. We all have men in our lives who we care about, and the sad fact is that men are much less likely to visit a doctor or be pro-active about their personal health than women are. Consequently, awareness and funding for men’s health issues lags far behind other causes. For instance, did you know that the life expectancy of the average man is five years shorter than his female counterpart?
Some upsetting, but important, truths: 50 percent of men will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime and for 1 in 6 men, this will be prostate cancer. In 2012, 242,000 new cases of prostate cancer will be detected in the United States, and 28,000 men will die from the disease. This is more than breast cancer—but I’ll bet you don’t know what color the ribbon is for prostate cancer. (It’s light blue.)
The goal of Movember is to increase early detection of men’s health issues and ultimately reduce the number of deaths from cancer and other treatable diseases. It’s all about prevention, and this is where you can play an important role: Talk to your guy (whether he’s family, a friend, or a more-than-a-friend) and tell him that you’re concerned. Then ask him to do the following;
• Schedule an annual physical with a general practitioner and stick to it! One of the top reasons that men cite for going to the doctor is a busy schedule. Remind him know that his health is more important than his other engagements, and feel free to play right into the stereotype and nag him to death.
• Know your family history. It’s becoming more and more apparent that many cancers and other diseases are hereditary. Encourage him to speak to his family members and find out what happened with grandma and grandpa.
• Know your own body. We’re good about doing our monthly self-exam and generally watching for any changes. He should follow our lead by listening to his body when it’s trying to tell him something instead of just assuming that it will go away eventually.
• Don’t be embarrassed to talk. Especially to your doctor, but also to friends and family. Lance Armstrong (cycling scandal aside) set a wonderful example by talking about his own battle with testicular cancer and bringing it to the forefront of everyone’s attention. Movember is a great time to talk about these issues but you don’t need to be sporting a ‘stache to tell someone you’re worried about your “unmentionables.”
I love silly mustaches—can’t get enough of them—but it’s important to remember why we do this every November. We can help make men’s health a priority year-round, and the first step is by helping to spread the word, and the mo’ love.