“Movember” is an annual charity fundraiser and awareness campaign originating in Australia and now found in many countries around the globe, including Canada, the United States, and Spain. Each year during November, men will attempt to grow their manliest moustache. It was originally intended to raise awareness for men’s health, but now focuses on raising money and awareness for prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer affects the gland in the male reproductive system which makes and stores seminal fluid. According to Prostate Cancer Canada, it is the most common cancer for Canadian men, with 1 in 6 men diagnosed with the disease over their lifetime and 4300+ expected to die from the disease each year.
Hefty risks, right? Let’s take a closer look.
Depending on who you ask, the average age of diagnosis for prostate cancer is ~70 years old. That alone suggests that prostate cancer probably shouldn’t be your first fear. By the age of 70, most people have a plateful of health concerns to deal with: heart disease, mental health, and physical mobility issues. Heart disease and stroke kills someone every 7 minutes – a total of 69 000 Canadians and 450 000 Americans. Eep! Many of these are within the 45+ age bracket of prostate cancer sufferers.
Prostate cancer is also, in general, a slow growing cancer. While there are some extremely aggressive forms, most are not. Here, there is a question of quality of life. Does a 70-something year old want to throw his energy into battling a cancer which may or may not spread? It’s not an easy answer, especially considering the heterogeneity of cancer in general. It may sound glib, but the best answer is often, “It depends”. A younger man may want to battle the disease on all fronts if he is able to withstand treatment. Certainly a man who has an aggressive form of the disease would want to do all that is possible to halt it’s course. But many men with slow growing forms of the cancer actually benefit more from careful monitoring and “maintenance” of the disease rather than resorting to actual treatment, which usually involves surgery, followed by debilitating rounds of radiation or chemotherapy.
So where does that leave “Movember”? It’s certainly a brilliant marketing strategy to highlight a men’s cancer. That alone makes it a worthwhile endeavor – all knowledge is worth having. But is it a good use of donor money? With so many causes every year which appeal to the pocketbook, I am not sure that I would choose prostate cancer as my first choice. It is a highly curable disease when caught early, with some reports suggesting up to 90% of prostate cancers are curable if detected.
I guess in the end, I would want to know what the money is being directed towards. As a disease which is very detectable and maintainable, I’d like to see the majority of money going towards patient care and comfort and the refinement of detection methods. Better facilities for imaging, detection and care in hospitals will help both patients with slow growing or faster growing forms of the disease.
And men… shave… please!