Strong Offense, Strong Defense: NFL Alumni Tackle Prostate Stigma
Advocacy Why is NFL Hall of Fame member Michael Haynes encouraging men to get tested?
Prostate cancer has one of the biggest stigmas of any disease, but it’s also thought to be highly curable if detected early and treated properly. That’s the message the National Football League Alumni Association (NFLA), Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) and the Urology Care Foundation have for men who may be at an increased risk of prostate cancer.
Silence is fear
“It’s amazing to me that so many men will say they don’t want to know if they have [prostate cancer]—when knowing you have it is what will keep [you] alive,” says NFL Hall of Fame member Michael Haynes, a prostate cancer survivor and partner of the Urology Care Foundation's Awareness initiatives.
“'I want to change the ‘head in the sand’ mindset some men have and encourage them to talk to their doctor about their risks for prostate cancer.'”
Dr. Sean Cavanaugh of the CTCA says, unlike some cancers, prostate cancer doesn’t have major randomized studies that indicate the best methods of treatment. He also reports that there is controversy over recent recommendations to reduce PSA screening.
He encourages men who are age 40 and over, and either have a family history of prostate cancer or are African-American, to get screened annually because those individuals are at a higher risk of the disease.
More at risk
NFLA president Joe Pisarcik says his organization became involved to raise awareness, as a majority of its members are African-American—and 1 in 5 among that demographic will develop prostate cancer.
“Some of the guys think, ‘I played in the NFL. I’m tough—I’m this; I’m that,’” Pisarcik explains. “Well, prostate cancer isn’t about how tough you are. It’s going to do what it’s going to do, so be aware of it. The earlier you find out about it, the better your chances of getting cured.”
Haynes, who learned he had prostate cancer in 2008, says being vocal with family members about disease history is essential. “It’s baffling sometimes to think about the lives that can be saved if more men talked about their prostate health,” Haynes reflects.
Close to home
Cavanaugh, who has a family history of prostate cancer, echoes the sentiment. He points out that a common mistake his patients make is asking spouses or other adult relatives to leave the room during consultations. To him, transparency about limited scientific evidence among physicians, as well as among patients with their family members, is crucial. He also says that more sexual activity before a man reaches his forties can help reduce his risk of developing the disease.
Meanwhile, Haynes says he hopes getting his story out about prostate cancer helps compel other survivors of the disease to come forward: “Many women talk about their health; they share stories about pregnancy, menopause, breast cancer and other health conditions or life-changing events. Men typically don’t do that.
“I’m not certain if it is a pride thing,” Haynes continues. “I want to change the ‘head in the sand’ mindset some men have and encourage them to talk to their doctor about their risks for prostate cancer.” The NFL Alumni Association partners with Cancer Treatment Centers of America to raise awareness among players and fans across the country on screenings, diagnoses and treatment.