Movember: Information against prejudice

by Otávio Clark | Nov 14, 2016

“Many men face cancer in silence when they do not need to.” This is one of the messages on the Movember Foundation website that encourages men to let their mustaches grow during November to symbolize a change in the way they “look” at healthcare. The movement was started in 2003 in Australia by two young men who found 30 other men willing to let their mustaches grow as a way to raise funds for the Australian Prostate Cancer Foundation (pCFA). At the time, the action led to the largest single donation received by the foundation. Today, the movement has more than 5 million members worldwide and is growing every day.

In Brazil, prostate cancer is the second most common type of cancer among men (second only to non-melanoma skin cancer), according to the National Cancer Institute José Alencar Gomes da Silva (INCA). The incidence rate of this disease is six times higher in developed countries than developing countries, and it is forecast that 61,200 new cases will occur in 2016 (INCA).

As in Pink October, November sees a media effort to inform the population about diseases affecting the male population, highlighting ways to detect them in advance and helping destigmatize the tests that identify and prevent these diseases.

"The Movember campaign is extremely important. Men usually seek routine medical care eight times less than women. So, this campaign brings awareness and makes an increasing number of men seek medical attention and perform routine examinations not only for prostate cancer but also to diagnose and treat other diseases common with aging, such as hypertension and dyslipidemias,” explains Tobias Engel, oncologist and medical analyst of Evidências - Kantar Health.

Despite the campaign’s efforts, the prejudice over the prostate cancer screening test – the much-feared digital rectal exam (DRE) – is still very common. “The DRE is a fast procedure, lasting just a few seconds, is practically painless and does not affect the man's masculinity at all,” says Luciano Paladini, oncologist and medical analyst of Evidências - Kantar Health. “It should be performed because prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is not effective alone in detecting prostate cancer. About 20% of cases diagnosed with rectal examination may present normal PSA at diagnosis.”

A survey conducted by the Datafolha Institute in partnership with the Brazilian Society of Urology in November 2015 showed that 76% of men are aware of prostate cancer, but only 32% are tested for it. In the northeast region of the country, this number is even lower: 74% of respondents never underwent the digital rectal exam. “North American data show that between 20% and 25% of men who do PSA screening alone would not agree to participate in a screening program that included DRE. These data suggest that a certain reluctance to perform the rectal exam is not exclusive to Latin American or Brazil,” Paladini says.

How do we break some prejudices that unfortunately still exist in our culture? “The best way is through campaigns to educate the public about screening tests and new therapeutic possibilities,” Engel says.

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