If we were to ask you what color you should wear in October – while your first guess might be “orange” for Halloween, we bet it wouldn’t take more than a minute for you to say “pink” in support of those with breast cancer. And while some men are diagnosed with breast cancer, the cancer most prevalent among men is prostate cancer, symbolized by a light blue ribbon. We are part of the Arizona Prostate Cancer Coalition, with a mission to help raise awareness, advocate and educate the public on this disease.
We are thankful for the partnership of Gov. Doug Ducey in advocating for improved men’s health through his proclamation naming September 2020 as Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. It is estimated that more than 3 million men are living with prostate cancer in the United States and an additional 191,000 will receive that diagnosis in 2020, with 3,830 of those being men in Arizona. These statistics drive our mission of promoting awareness, education, early detection, effective treatment and support for prostate cancer patients, their families, and caregivers.
Governor Ducey’s proclamation points out high-risk factors for developing prostate cancer, including advancing age, African ancestry, those with a family history of prostate cancer, and exposure to certain chemicals such as Agent Orange. It’s important to know that early stage prostate cancer has no symptoms but is the most curable. We urge men to know their risk factors, understand the prostate cancer screening process, and engage as advocates for their own health in shared decision-making with their health care providers regarding being screened for prostate cancer. The goal is detecting aggressive pre-symptomatic prostate cancers at earlier more curable stages, resulting in saved lives.
We do know that men who understand their prostate cancer risk factors and the prostate cancer screening process are more likely to be proactive in getting screened for prostate cancer. Many well-known men are prostate cancer survivors – among them, Robert DeNiro, Rudy Giuliani, Colin Powell, and John Kerry. Golfer Arnold Palmer who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1997 lived for 19 more years until passing away at the age of 87, not from prostate cancer, but from heart disease.
There are so many issues around health care today – be it out-of-pocket costs, insurance requirements, or medication protocols. In light of this, it is important to know that a simple prostate cancer screening can be a very pro-active and cost-effective decision that alleviates concern rather than adding to it.
Following the lead of Governor Ducey, we are encouraged by those in state leadership, including the Arizona Department of Health Services Cancer Prevention and Control Programs, for creating the framework necessary for ensuring all Arizona men understand their prostate cancer risk and receive ongoing encouragement toward annual screening discussions with their doctors. There is no substitute for these proactive discussions, which are vital to the best outcomes possible and provide an invaluable benefit. The Arizona Prostate Cancer Coalition thanks Governor Ducey for his action and leadership on this issue and urges anyone who would like to learn more to visit www.azprostatecancercoalition.org.
Donald B. Williams is president of the Arizona Prostate Cancer Coalition, Fred Fahs is vice president and Jessica Wells is the secretary-treasurer.