Second Opinion: Growing for Movember

Dr. April Sanders launches her new column and this month takes a look at finding ways of increasing support for prostate cancer awareness

I arrived at UBC last November to find my only son looking less like himself and more like my first boyfriend did in 1971. As I looked at this earnest young man with the crooked moustache I felt transported back to the UBC of days long past when long hair, facial hair and bellbottom trousers ruled the campus. When I quizzed my son about his new facial feature he told me that many students were sporting moustaches not to recapture a bygone era, but to support Movember as November has come to be known. The new name, he patiently explained, is a moniker to enhance public awareness that November is prostate cancer awareness month.

Being a supporter of prostate cancer awareness, I congratulated my boy for his participation in a cause. After all, both of his granddads had died from prostate cancer and this was my son’s first venture into a political issue of some personal relevance.

In Vernon I found many of my male friends were also moustache clad but I remained skeptical. It was not clear to me how looking goofy for a month would translate into a political movement. Would all these Burt Reynolds and Tom Sellecks get on the bandwagon and contribute dollars to improve prostate cancer awareness because they had a moustache? Would their facial appendages encourage others to do the same? Would a handlebar moustache increase the turnout at Do It for Dad, where our Hospital Foundation raises funds for the Prostate Cancer Support Group, PSA testing and new equipment to treat the disease here at home? Sadly, I have not seen evidence to suggest that many have made the leap from facial hair to prostate cancer support.

I have looked at the international statistics for Movember and around the world the donations are paltry. Prostate Cancer Awareness and Prevention and the support of the general public for this issue lacks momentum This is especially true when we compare funds donated or raised for Breast Cancer Awareness, provincial mammogram screening programs, breast cancer support services and public education. Despite the fact that just as many men get prostate cancer as women do breast cancer and that the impact of both are equally devastating for individuals and families, the latter is big news and the former is not.

The problem is the same as it was 10 years ago. Men do not talk much about their health issues and are not regular visitors to the doctor for prevention screening. Prostate cancer is still a tough one for many men because the disease involves a rectal exam and the treatments can have devastating sexual side effects. Prostate cancer can affect a man’s sexual ability and that kind of conversation is just too much for many. All of these facts do not make the disease go away. Early diagnosis is still a goal.

I fully support Movember and I like to see men have fun. Every man who can, should grow a moustache but when you do, make the direct link between that facial hair and support for prostate cancer awareness. Have your friends and family and coworkers donate to the cause in support of your effort. Hold a raffle among your supporters where the winner gets the satisfaction of giving you a clean shave at month’s end. Offer kisses for a fee. Contribute in a way that makes prostate cancer an issue that we all support and discuss freely. When other men ask you: What’s up with the stash? encourage them to see their doctor for a rectal exam at 40 if there is a family history of prostate cancer and at 50 if there is not. Support the community and the Hospital Foundation at Do It for Dad, our local Father’s Day effort to make prostate cancer something we treat in a timely manner with good equipment here at home. It’s up to each of us to make the connection work between Movember and how we best serve the sons, husbands and fathers of our community.