Good evening all! I’m writing a blog post to remind you all that it’s that time of the year again. No, not Christmas, darling. Something better: it’s Movember!
For those of you who’ve been out of the loop for… well, a while, rest assured that I did not just accidentally misspell November. Movember is not just any old misspelling of our favourite month; it’s also a great campaign that started in 2004 Melbourne, Australia! The aim of the campaign was to have men sprout mustaches for an entire month to promote awareness and open discussion of prostate cancer, as well as to raise funds for prostate cancer research and health awareness/education programs. In 2007, this movement was brought over to Canada, and has been a great success so far! Last year alone, the Canadian Movember campaign generated $22.3 million dollars for prostate cancer research.
For a good cause, too. Prostate cancer is the most frequently diagnosed type of cancer in male-bodied folk (it afflicts about one in six or seven people with a prostate). In fact, it is the most frequently diagnosed type of cancer in Ontario. This means that in 2011, it is estimated that around 10600 people will be diagnosed with it in Ontario alone, and of those 10600, 1550 will die.
However, all is not so grim. By becoming more aware of the disease, we may be able to take steps towards its prevention and/or early detection. But let’s start at the beginning: what is a prostate?
For those of you who don’t know what the prostate is or does (and there’s no shame in that!), let me just give you a brief run-down! The prostate gland is a walnut-sized gland located just underneath the bladder in male-bodied folk. In fact, it surrounds the part of the urethra just below the bladder. The prostate’s job is to produce an alkaline, milky fluid that constitutes around 20-30% of semen (and gives it the milky colour). The alkalinity of the fluid helps neutralize the acidity of the vaginal tract; prostatic fluid also helps sperm swim faster or live longer. Finally, the prostate contains smooth muscles which help expel semen during ejaculation and affects urine flow.
Because, a tumour on the prostate can make it larger than normal, symptoms of prostate cancer include the need to urinate often (especially during the night), difficulty starting or stopping urine flow, burning pain during urination, a weak or interrupted urine stream, painful ejaculation, and more. A full list of symptoms can be seen here. But what’s confusing is that the symptoms of BPH—that’s benign prostatic hyperplasia, a non-threatening condition in which the prostate enlarges naturally—are similar to that of prostate cancer.
This is why very important that male-bodied folk go for a regular prostate examination. Prostate cancer mainly afflicts men over the age of 40, but it can’t go wrong to start thinking about them now! There are two main types of examinations. The first, the most common, is the DRE (digital rectal examination), in which the doctor inserts a gloved finger into your rectum and feels for any lumps that shouldn’t be there. The other is the PSA (prostate specific antigen) test, a screening tool which measures the amount of PSA produced by the prostate. Early screening will improve the prognosis of the disease—so it’s important that we don’t let the stigma of testing get in the way of our health.
More information about prostate cancer can be found here.
Finally: men aren’t the only ones who can have prostate cancer; trans women or any other person with a prostate may also become afflicted with the disease, as Drew from Buck Angel’s public service announcement will happily tell you. Unfortunately, the emphasis on prostate cancer awareness being a “men’s health” issue or anxiety about the prostate being a “male” body part can cause trans women to ignore prostate health. Furthermore, transphobic attitudes or lack of knowledge about trans peoples’ health issues can affect the quality of the health care they receive. Fortunately, in K’s words from last year, “there has been a push for trans people to take charge of their own health, and a push for greater visibility of trans health issues.” More information about health issues for trans people may be found here (note the prostate health section!), as well as on various other sites.
We’ll be posting a prostate fact each day on Twitter. If Twitter’s not your cup of tea, that’s okay too – we’ll be gathering them all in a blog post after this one and we’ll edit it every day. Also, if you’d like to participate… this year, SEC has decided to do a moustache-making contest in honour of Movember. So make yourself a moustache out of anything (paper, sparkles, your own actual facial hair) and snap a picture of it. Post it up on our Facebook page and at the end of the month, we’ll declare winners!
We’ll also be taking in-office submissions for those who are a little shy. Bring in your moustache (with your name/a piece of contact information if you want to participate in the contest), and we’ll tack it to our wall-o-stache. At the end of the month, we’ll have people voting on which ones they liked the best! We’re also collecting money in-office to donate to prostate cancer research at the end of the month. Toss in some change if you’ve got any in passing!
Take care of your bodies everyone.