The month of November has a variety of meanings for people. For some, it is the unofficial beginning of Riverside’s rainy season, when the Santa Ana winds pick up and rip papers away from the hands of unsuspecting passerby. For others, it is the frenetic period of studying, cooped up in the Rivera Library with a very strongly caffeinated beverage before finals week. But for an increasing number of men, November has come to embody a new meaning: that of the moustache.
If you see an increased amount of facial hair around campus, it’s because men around the world are participating in a month-long event known as Movember. But Movember is not solely about stylishly grooming the moustache, although that is a part of it. Even some who grow out their facial hair in solidarity with the movement are not aware that Movember is actually a campaign intended to raise awareness of men’s health issues, including testicular and prostate cancer.
8,590 cases of testicular cancer will be found in 2012, according to the National Cancer Institute. New cases of prostate cancer will number nearly a quarter million. And there will be an estimated 28,170 deaths from prostate cancer in this year alone. But though the numbers are staggering, they belie a larger problem. Prostate cancer is a slow-growing cancer. Even if men undergo an exam and are diagnosed with prostate cancer, doctors do not necessarily know whether the cancerous cells will grow quickly enough to wreck havoc. Often, men undertake surgeries to remove benign tumors that otherwise would have remained unknown and undamaging, only to face complications from the surgery itself. This only adds to the hesitance and reticence that men have when it comes time for them to be tested for prostate cancer.
This is problematic because testing for prostate cancer does indeed save lives. The longer a man goes with a cancerous polyp undetected, the more of a chance it has to metastasize and spread to other areas of the body, where it can become untreatable. The American Cancer Society reports the revealing facts on early detection and early treatment: if prostate cancer is treated before it spreads, the five-year survival rate is nearly 100 percent. But once it becomes a stage IV cancer, that number plummets to 29 percent.
With the number of human lives affected by this scourge, why isn’t there more awareness of the suffering and pain brought about by prostate cancer? Movember has made a start, but awareness is still startlingly low. October has been coronated breast cancer awareness month; why can’t November take its own place in the pantheon of dates geared to increase attention on a specific issue? Indeed, so much work has been done by breast cancer awareness advocates, who have struggled against a decades-long stigma against breast cancer to make so many achievements for people undergoing the tribulation of breast cancer everywhere, that it would be the next logical step to advance the issues related to prostate cancer.
Now it is time for men’s health to pick up that mantle and be the second wave to the breast cancer awareness campaign, and UCR can be the hub. Students who are interested can join the Movember movement and start raising money for the end of prostate and testicular cancer. But this is not enough. Just as the women’s volleyball match on Oct. 6 was dedicated to breast cancer awareness, sports games held in the month of November should be dedicated to prostate cancer awareness. ASUCR can use its role as the student voice on campus to endorse the Movember movement at UCR and use its bully pulpit to encourage students to grow out their moustaches in solidarity with the awareness campaign. The Student Wellness Center can organize awareness campaigns during November. For its part, the UCR administration should make the monthly growth of the moustache a hallmark of the campus and pledge a dollar for every person who agrees to register.
Make no mistake: fighting any kind of cancer is a long and arduous task. But someone must start. As the advocates of breast cancer awareness have learned, taking action is the only way to accomplish the goal you have in mind. There is no better time than the present to increase awareness of prostate cancer and testicular cancer. And we, as UCR students, staff, faculty, and administrators, can do our part to leave our mark on the movement.
Gentlemen, start growing out your moustaches.