What kind of mustache will you grow this month?

This article was published in The West End Times October 29, 2011.

I am really enjoying the stories about “Movember”. We don’t talk very much about diseases that affect men. Maybe because men don’t talk about their health? How many of us have to push our partner to see a doctor or, to get a blood test? “Movember” campaign helps raise awareness about prostate health. “Movember” founder Adam Garone flew in from Australia for a late night launch of the “mustache campaign” in Old Montreal. “Globally we’ve had 450,000 guys participating, we raised $77 million dollars, and that makes Movember the biggest funder of prostate cancer research and support programs in the world,” he said. Imagine men around the world uniting for an important cause and having fun together at the same time. Watch for the growing mustaches during the month of November.

Prostate cancer is the most common malignancy in men and the second leading cause of deaths from cancer, after lung cancer. The estimated lifetime risk of being diagnosed with the disease is 17.6% for Caucasians and 20.6% for African Americans. The lifetime risk of death from prostate cancer is 2.8% and 4.7% respectively. As reflected in these numbers, prostate cancer is likely to impact the lives of a significant proportion of men that are alive today.

In the early stages, prostate cancer often causes no symptoms for many years. This cancer is often first detected by an abnormality on a blood test, the PSA. Occasionally a hard nodule may be felt during a routine examination. In more advanced cases, the cancer may enlarge and press on the urethra. As a result, the flow of urine diminishes and urination becomes more difficult. Patients may also experience burning with urination or blood in the urine.

The good news is that the death rate from prostate cancer is declining because of early detection and treatment. As always we want to diagnose problems early. Many experts in this field recommend that beginning at age 40, all men should undergo screening for prostate cancer.

Unfortunately with the combination of men not talking about their health and our health care system, are men getting the necessary screening? Do they even have a doctor to order the simple PSA blood test? Why do men need to get a doctor prescription to have this blood test screening? If experts recommend screening from the age of 40 years old why can’t we just have collective orders that provide every man with a requisition for the blood test once they turn 40? Is it just me or does it seem to be a huge cost to the system for nothing? We want people to take charge of their health (or do we?) and yet we put so many obstacles in their way. There could even be a central department that reviews the blood test results with a copy to the person at very little cost. The breast screening program in Quebec does this and women are having mammograms without going to doctor for the piece of paper allowing them to do so. Why can’t we do this for men? The ongoing health care saga to be continued…..