What does it mean to be diagnosed with prostate cancer? Pro football hall of fame member Michael Haynes had to ask himself this question when he received a cancer diagnosis in 2008 — and it was a difficult to answer.

“I was so ignorant about the disease,” Haynes says, describing a sense of shock and confusion. “Everyone would tell me that that was good, that we caught it early and I should be okay. I didn’t really believe anyone.”

Raising awareness

In hindsight, Haynes says he knows how lucky he was to have caught the cancer early and get treatment. He is one of 3 million prostate cancer survivors in the United States, and he is determined to use his own experience to educate others, break down stigma surrounding the disease and encourage men to get tested early.

"The most important thing is to let their family member know that they love them, and no matter what the outcome, they’ll work through it with them.”

“Our goal is to try and get men to catch it early, learn about this disease early, when it’s easily treatable,” he says. Haynes actively works to spread the word as spokesperson for the Know Your Stats About Prostate Cancer campaign, an initiative in partnership with the NFL and the Urology Care Foundation.

“We need to just talk about it more often,” Haynes explains. “It’s such a common disease we should all know a lot about it.”

Joining the conversation

Prostate cancer is the second-most common cancer in men in the country, and considering it affects 1 in 7 men it’s surprising more people aren’t talking about it. Haynes says he himself was reluctant to share that part of his life at first. “But the moment I started talking about it, I started feeling better."

Part of being able to talk about prostate cancer is being willing to educate yourself about the disease. According to Haynes, it’s important to know your family history, which demographics are most at risk, and everything about the tests involved.

When a diagnosis does occur, it can often be difficult for friends and family of the person affected. For that support network, Haynes says, “My advice is just to be honest. The most important thing is to let their family member know that they love them, and no matter what the outcome, they’ll work through it with them.”