By Craig Pynn, Pacific Urology patient
We men are good at many things. But one thing we’re not very good at is paying attention to our health.
On average, men die five years younger than women. The suicide rate is four times higher for men than women and 24 percent of men are less likely to go to the doctor compared to women.
We’re also not terribly good at talking with each other—or with our spouses, children, or partners —about our health.
But hey, we’re guys. We like to see ourselves as tough and invulnerable. We prefer to be the classic strong and silent type—especially when it comes to talking about those cancers “down there” —prostate and testicular. Even when men who’ve survived those cancers speak, it tends to be something like, “yes, I had prostate cancer, but I’ve moved on. Cancer is in my past.”
During 2013, more than 238,000 American men will hear the words, “you’ve got prostate cancer.” Another 8,000 men will be diagnosed with testicular cancer. That’s more than the 232,000 women who will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. Yet, everyone knows what “pink October” is about: the fight against breast cancer.
Our collective male silence has done little to raise awareness about these “manly cancers,” and one result is that men’s cancers receive less than half the research funding as breast cancer.
But what guy wants to put on blue sneakers, a blue shirt and go on a three-day walk with his buddies? There must be a better was to promote men’s health awareness, especially about men’s cancers.
In 2003, some Australian guys sitting around drinking beer were thinking about how to raise awareness about men’s mental and physical health, especially prostate and testicular cancer. They hit on the brilliant idea of growing a mustache for the month of November. No cute ribbons, group hugs, running or walking required.
In Australia, mustaches are called “mo’s,” so November quickly became “Movember.”
There’s little that says “man” better than a mustache (think Tom Selleck). Men willing to shave their faces on November 1 and then grow only a mustache for the month are “Mo Bros.” The women
who support them in this cause are “Mo Sistas.”
The “mo” has made a difference, and Movember has spread like proverbial wildfire. What started with 30 Australian men grew to 1,127,152 registered Mo Bros and Mo Sistas in 2012 scattered around the world in 21 countries. Out of nothing has grown a fundraising effort that totaled more than US$147 million in 2012.
Those funds are divided among the Prostate Cancer Foundation for prostate and testicular cancer research, the Livestrong Foundation for men living with and beyond cancer and to the Movember Foundation to support men’s mental health.
Taking advantage of the first four letters in its name, Movember also encourages guys to get off the couch and move. If you’ve been thinking about getting back to the gym or pool or out jogging or just walking, Movember is a great time to resume movement.
So, gentlemen, it’s not too late to get that “mo” growing. Ladies, it’s not too late to support your guy in the cause.
When you go to the Movember website you’ll find out how to form a Movember team or be a “lone wolf,” and encourage your friends and family to donate a tax-deductable gift to the cause—all while those luxuriant “mo’s” grow for the next month.
And when someone says, “you’re growing a mustache,” or “nice ‘stache,” you can tell them about the cause behind the hair on your lip.
Because, gentlemen, it’s OK to talk about our health now. Besides, what better way to look the strong and silent type than with a “mo?”
Craig is a prostate cancer survivor living in Walnut Creek, is the author of One Man’s Life-Changing Diagnosis: Navigating the Realities of Prostate Cancer, and blogs about the sociology and politics of cancer from a baby boomer’s perspective at An Ordinary Cancer.