There is a long-standing stigma that prevents men from talking openly about prostate cancer, erectile dysfunction (ED) and urinary incontinence (UI) issues. While some men view this silence as being strong and manly, in reality, it is counterproductive to the urgent health needs we face in these areas.

Learning by example

Women, on the other hand, through their progress in the fight against breast cancer, clearly demonstrate that open conversation and advocacy pay huge dividends in support of women facing the disease and in securing resources for research and education.

"Understanding that men who face urological conditions are reluctant to talk, and knowing the disadvantages of this silence, the health care community needs to expand their resources to help men transcend this hurdle." 

Many ascribe to the saying that women are from Venus and men are from Mars when time comes to explain the differences in approaches to their respective health challenges. It is up to men to bridge this perceived, planetary gap in order to accelerate progress in addressing urological health issues.

Cracks in the ice

There is some good news on this front, however. From my years of experience working with men treated for prostate cancer (many of whom encounter ED and UI issues), I am finding that men do talk, but just not enough. More and more, I see men opening up and sharing their urological health challenges with other men, within support group settings. Through these discussions, men better understand the treatments and options that are available to them. Most importantly, they get real-life feedback from men that they have gotten to know and trust.

Interestingly, I also see that these men’s wives and loved ones become engaged in the conversation. This personal sharing and mutual support makes a tremendous difference in the health outcome for men who are facing life-altering challenges.

Gaining awareness

Increasing this level of conversation will have a significant impact, but men must value and better appreciate these benefits to step up this sharing. Understanding that men who face urological conditions are reluctant to talk, and knowing the disadvantages of this silence, the health care community needs to expand their resources to help men transcend this hurdle. 

Another gap between the approaches of men and women lies in fostering public awareness and advocacy support. The difference in public visibility of breast cancer vs. prostate cancer can be measured in light years. While men do raise their voices, the chorus is not yet loud enough. Funding for prostate cancer research could be doubled if this gap were closed, accelerating progress on research efforts that have the potential to change the face of prostate cancer as we know it.