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Why Every Month Needs to be Movember

It’s Movember again – the time of year when people around the world (and in all Janssen offices) wear real or fake moustaches to raise awareness for men’s health and the leading causes of their death, including prostate cancer. Over the course of the past 15 years, it has gained popularity around the world and, in 2017, received over 2 million individual donations.

While this important campaign happens every 12 months, for men in the Asia Pacific region it cannot come around soon or often enough.

With increasing incidence rates and mortality figures now being the highest in the world, the impact of prostate cancer in the region is growing rapidly every year – with devastating consequences for men and their families. Despite this, education and support offerings have yet to gain the traction necessary to make a difference to this upwards trend and awareness and understanding of the condition remain concerningly low in many countries.

This is not just a problem in our region: a recent survey showed that men (and women) in Europe also have alarmingly little understanding of urological conditions including prostate cancer – and I have no doubts that the results would be very similar for the rest of the world.

One finding from the survey that stood out for me was that men were, in fact, more confident in recognizing the symptoms of breast cancer than those of prostate cancer. This shows two things: the first is the incredible success that breast cancer initiatives have had over the past decades in raising awareness for the condition, its signs and symptoms and the importance of early diagnosis – contributing to a highly engaged population, a general shift towards earlier detection, improved outcomes and reduced mortality.

The second is that we need to empower men to take a similarly active role in better understanding and talking about prostate cancer, a condition that will affect up to one in six of them over the course of their lifetime.

So where do we begin? I believe one important starting point is for men to understand that knowing the symptoms and using screening programs can actually save their lives. The second most important thing is for them to realize that not all prostate cancer is the same and that this knowledge can make a difference to their outcomes and their quality of life.

For example, with regular check-ups, men with early stage prostate cancer that is localized and has a low risk of spreading can live without intervention for decades. Other types might be very aggressive and need to be monitored closely. The management goal for men whose prostate cancer has spread beyond the prostate and is at high risk of metastasizing is to prevent further disease progression. Men with metastasized prostate cancer need support and care to help manage the quality of life impact that comes with advanced disease.

Knowledge like this is critical to help men play an active part in the management of their health, their condition and their treatment. It allows them to make the best decision for themselves, ask the important questions and take the right actions. In short, we need men to become as vigilant about understanding their risks and their options as women are in breast cancer.

This is why I believe that Movember, though very important, can only be the beginning of a larger movement that supports men to be more active, more open and more vocal about their health in general and prostate cancer in particular.

At Janssen Asia Pacific, we are now in our eighth year of supporting Movember and I have seen many of my colleagues regardless of their gender Mo’ing up for this important cause. In this spirit, I encourage you all to take this Movember as a starting point to learn more about prostate cancer, the risk factors and options for early detection to support your own health or the health of your dads, brothers, sons and male friends. I also urge you to not stop on November 30, but to stay vigilant every day of the year.