Alexander Marshall highlights the month of “Movember”, and the very important purpose it serves
It is now November, and the spread of a blight across the country has begun: the moustaches have returned. For those who are not aware, this annual event, now known as “Movember”, may come across as a fairly disturbing trend. While some individuals growing these may be doing so out of a lack of better judgement, many are doing so to raise money for and awareness of prostate cancer and The Movember Foundation.
Founded in 2003, the Movember Foundation began as a small organisation, and has now grown into a global event. But whilst undoubtedly raising awareness of prostate cancer, one can’t help but wonder how effective it has actually been at raising public understanding. In reality, whilst it’s all good fun, when you compare it with the awareness of a disease such as breast cancer, the campaign seems to be lacking; recent figures from the charity Prostate Cancer UK seem to suggest that 50-60% of men are still unaware of where their prostate even is.
The prostate is a small walnut-sized organ found in men that creates the sexual fluids, and according to Cancer Research UK, 1 in 8 men will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime. Whilst the disease is rare amongst the under-50s, the “taboo” nature of the subject means that prostate cancer remains the most common cancer in men, and overall the seventh largest killer. The terrible reality is that most deaths are avoidable, despite its prevalence.
Specifically, as cancers progress and fulfil certain criteria, they are graded. There are four grades available: grades 1 and 2 are almost completely survivable, whereas grade 3 predicts a 95% survival rate. However, grade 4 shows only a 30% survival rate, meaning only 3 out of every 10 patients will survive for longer than five years post-diagnosis. Unfortunately, 20% of cases are diagnosed during advanced stages, leading to the high mortality rate.
Yet, testing for prostate cancer can be relatively quick, generally involving a simple blood test and digital rectal exam. This test checks for an enlargement or misshapen prostate by inserting a single finger into the rectum. Further, the blood test measures the level of prostate specific antigen (PSA) within the blood. Although PSA levels rise with age, and can indicate several things, determining PSA levels in combination with other measures can help establish the health of an individual. Most of the time these tests will come back negative. However, if a problem is found, a small amount of tissue can be taken for further examination under a microscope to confirm the presence of cancer.
As well as offering support and advice to those affected, The Movember Foundation in partnership with Prostate Cancer UK helps to fund prostate cancer research in universities and research facilities, known as Movember Centres of Excellence. The research into prostate cancer is wide in scope, from looking at improving patient outcomes and treatment, to identifying those most at risk in the population.
So, what can we, as the public, do? Primarily, encourage male relatives to go and get regularly tested after the age of 50. The truth is that while a finger up the rectum may not be your idea of fun, prostate cancer can be easily treated if caught early in contrast to treatment at later stages; cancer that has reached these latter stages will present with far more severe side-effects, including uncontrolled urination and erectile dysfunction. Pride and embarrassment have already meant that too many people have gone untested over the years and died needlessly, so how about I’ll put up with the moustaches if we all keep talking about the issue.
Find out more about the invaluable work of:
The Movember Foundation: https://uk.movember.com/
Prostate Cancer UK: https://prostatecanceruk.org/
Featured Image: Wikimedia Commons