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Acting on a mixture of social responsibility and reverence for his father, tennis legend John McEnroe is insistently recognizing Prostate Cancer Awareness Month by raising awareness to those at risk for the disease, urging men who may be at risk of the disease to get tested.
Like many men, McEnroe said that for most of his life he stayed out of the doctor's office and generally disregarded concerns over his health, according to WebMD the Magazine. However, when McEnroe's father was diagnosed with prostate cancer five years ago, the tennis pro scheduled his first prostate-specific antigen test. "It really raised my awareness level," McEnroe said of his father's diagnosis.
The PSA test is a screening method for prostate cancer that the American Cancer Society recommends be administered annually to men over the age of 50.
McEnroe, who turned 50 earlier this year, has now turned his efforts to raising awareness about the disease in all at-risk men. In pursuit of this goal, the former athlete joined the Entertainment Industry's Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C) initiative. SU2C is a charitable program which has raised over $100 million for cancer research principally through telethons and online events.
Through his involvement with the charity, McEnroe hopes that men around the country will emulate his healthy attitudes and attention to developments in prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment. He told WebMD reporters, "I see myself as an ambassador. I want other men to see me active and proactive about my health and maybe say, 'Hey, I can be like that."
Overcoming the stigma associated with prostate cancer
Until very recently, social stigma surrounding conversations about prostate cancer has impeded efforts to get men the support they need. The invasive nature of prostate exams, privacy of the affected areas and misconceptions about the seriousness of the disease in the public have lead to men unnecessarily falling victim to prostate cancer.
According to data compiled by the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among men. Experts say that 1 out of every 27 men diagnosed with the disease will die.
Wally Seeley, executive director of the Canadian Prostate Cancer Network verified that in his experience, men are likely to shy away treatment and support. He told the Minden Times Ontario, "We get hundreds of phone calls from across the country from the newly-diagnosed and 80 percent of them are from women saying 'My father's just been diagnosed, my husband's just been diagnosed." He added, "Ladies deal with disease better than men."
Psychologists have also noted that men feel unwilling to talk about their disease because of some emasculating side effects. The Minden Times reports that men who treat the disease hormonally deprive their bodies of testosterone and encounter hot flashes, erectile dysfunction, and decreased libido.
Efforts by grassroots organizations, celebrities, and scientists, alike, have helped to relax the conversation about prostate cancer and ease the acceptance of the disease among men.
One group, Pints for Prostates has spent September organizing events at nine bars, taverns or beer festivals across the country to raise money and provide a "non-threatening way" for allowing men to "talk to other men and shake off the stigma of prostate cancer."
Furthermore, helping to erase the image of an emasculated victim, sports stars John Smoltz and Derek Lowe have shown their enthusiasm for spreading awareness on the topic by joining on with the "One A Day Men's Presents MLB Strikeout Prostate Cancer Challenge" - a program that raised $333,780 for cancer research last year and over $268,570 so far this year.
With the funding that these charities have provided, cancer researchers have gotten to work analyzing factors such as weight gain and sexual activity on ones risk of developing prostate cancer, and investigating innovative ways treat it.
The latest strides come from researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center who claim that new monitoring techniques of some types of prostate cancer may completely overtake the need for surgery or chemotherapy.
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