November is Men’s Health Awareness Month and shines a spotlight on this important, widely covered issue, and on men’s health, despite closely following Prostate Cancer Awareness Month in September, and Men’s Health Month in June.
When it comes to prostate cancer awareness campaigns, the primary message the public hears is around getting screened. We suspect that perhaps this message is too broad. This year, before choosing the message for our Prostate Cancer Awareness Month campaign, we decided to get a better understanding of people’s knowledge (or lack thereof) so we could address the misperceptions head-on, and hopefully, save some lives along the way.
The PCF 3P Report: Public Perception of Prostate Cancer is the first national public awareness study about risks, actions and attitudes toward prostate cancer. It revealed that 69 percent of Americans surveyed don’t know that there aren’t early prostate cancer symptoms and believe that there are noticeable symptoms associated with the early stages of the disease. Obviously, this was a disturbing finding. If men and their families don’t understand that the early stages of prostate cancers are nearly symptomless, they lack the ability to make informed decisions about screening for the disease.
Data from as recently as 2015 shows that for the first time in 25 years, while death rates for all other cancers continue to decline, the death rate from prostate cancer has plateaued rather than dropped. This is further indication that we all need to work harder to make sure people understand the facts.
Men need to understand that if they are in an at-risk group or in their 40s, they should start discussing prostate cancer screening options with their primary care physician, because statistically, 1 in 9 of them will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their life. This is critical information that will help save men’s lives.
The most recent guidelines for prostate cancer screening recommend a blood test to check prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels. The PCF 3P Report indicates that this discussion is not taking place as often as it should due to lack of awareness and plain old fear of the perceived intrusiveness of the tests. They don’t realize that the same blood test that checks their cholesterol and blood sugar can also check their PSA with one additional box being checked off by their doctor.
Following the lack of symptoms being the reason for not discussing prostate cancer with their doctors, 14 percent of those surveyed cited discomfort about an inspection of the prostate and 12 percent preferred “not to know” rather than discuss screening with their physician. We also learned that 68 percent of men say they would be screened if they knew they could begin with just a blood test. This is what brought us to our theme for this year’s Prostate Cancer Awareness Month public service announcement. Actor and comedian, Dax Shepard, starred in the 90-second clip called “I’d Rather” to spread the message that with advancement in early detection methods available today, prostate cancer is 99 percent treatable.
With the help of Shepard and his wife, Kristen Bell, we are finally reaching new audiences with life-saving and life-changing information. We are grateful to them both for their tireless efforts to increase awareness about this disease and the humorous, straightforward way they communicate the message.
To review the PCF 3P Report 2018: Public Perception of Prostate Cancer in its entirety, visit www.PCF.org/3p.
Jonathan W. Simons, MD, President and Chief Executive Officer, Prostate Cancer Foundation, [email protected]