What can we learn from Movember?

What is Movember? The Movember movement was founded in 2004 to raise awareness of key men’s health issues like prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and suicide. The organization encourages men to grow a mustache through the month of November to show their brotherhood and hopefully stir up a conversation around these key health issues. As urologists, we frequently see advanced cases of prostate or testicular cancer which could have been avoided if there was better education about screening and detection. I would like to join the Movember movement by high lighting below some important facts about prostate and testicular cancer which I also hope you will share with friends and family.

Screening PSA prevents prostate cancer deaths

Getting a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test at 50 and annually thereafter, is the best way to prevent death from prostate cancer. However, if you have a family history of prostate cancer or are African American, start screening with a PSA test as early as 45 years. I know that the US Preventive Task Force has suggested that the PSA test is not an effective screening for prostate cancer, but the truth is that we do not have a better way to screen men for the disease. PSA can be elevated for many reasons other than cancer- enlargement of the prostate, prostate inflammation, and even prostate infections. When a patient presents with an abnormal PSA, we always rule out other causes, but many times will do a prostate biopsy to check the prostate tissue for cancer cells. Furthermore, an abnormal PSA frequently helps us identify benign prostatic hypertrophy or enlarged prostate early on so that we can treat that condition with less invasive options. Finally, PSA testing annually has multiple advantages and without it we could not be as successful as we have been in our fight against prostate cancer.

Testicular cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in young men

Testicular cancer is a disease of young men as we see it most commonly in men between 15 and 35 years of age. It is usually caused due to undescended testicles at birth, but men can also be at increased risk of developing testicular cancer if there is a family history of it. The most important thing to remember about testicular cancer is that it is extremely responsive to treatment. We do not have screening blood tests for testicular cancer, so the best way to screen for it is physical exam. Just as women after the age of 40 are advised to examine their breasts once a month for abnormal lumps, men as early as their late teens should examine their testicles for abnormal lumps or bumps until they are in their 50s. With a 99% post treatment survival rate, catching testicular cancer early guarantees an effective recovery.