Gentlemen, put down your razors. While everyone from NFL players to restaurant staffers donned shades of pink last month to raise awareness about breast cancer, this month is all about cancers more likely to strike you. The American Cancer Society estimates that 241,710 men will develop prostate cancer this year, and 28,170 will die from it. This month, you can help fight back just by growing a mustache.
Movember, a worldwide movement to spread the word about prostate cancer and other men's health issues, kicked off Nov. 1. What's the benefit of growing a mo, besides the sweet Facebook photo opps? Well, your 'stache will start conversations, and that's the point. When people ask you about your stubble, ask them about their junk. Seriously. Especially your dad. And while you're at it, use your mustache as an excuse to talk to your doctor about your gland. (Click here to register your mustache.)
The most important talk you don't want to have
"When it comes to men and health, a lot of it is just getting the conversation going," says William Blazey, D.O., assistant professor of family medicine at the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine. He grows a Movember 'stache because he knows from experience that men don't have enough frank conversations about their health--especially their private parts.
Men tend to visit the doctor's office only in the most extreme conditions--when they're injured, experiencing symptoms, or when a body part just doesn't work right anymore, Dr. Blazey says. With prostate cancer, it's better to keep tabs before symptoms develop. Your chances of surviving are nearly 100 percent if you catch the disease in its earliest stages, according to the American Cancer Society. (Are you at risk for prostate cancer? Take this quiz to find out.)
Don't miss these Health stories
More women opting for preventive mastectomy - but should they be?
Rates of women who are opting for preventive mastectomies, such as Angeline Jolie, have increased by an estimated 50 percent in recent years, experts say. But many doctors are puzzled because the operation doesn't carry a 100 percent guarantee, it's major surgery -- and women have other options, from a once-a-day pill to careful monitoring.
- Larry Page's damaged vocal cords: Treatment comes with trade-offs
- Report questioning salt guidelines riles heart experts
- CDC: 2012 was deadliest year for West Nile in US
- What stresses moms most? Themselves, survey says
- More women opting for preventive mastectomy - but should they be?
Which tests do you need, and when?
The first step is to chat with your primary care doctor about prostate health and develop a plan to keep your gland in prime condition. Mention your 'stache to get the ball rolling. Although the United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends against routine prostate cancer screening through prostate specific antigen (PSA) testing, that doesn't mean you can neglect your prostate, Dr. Blazey says. Talk about what's best for you -- especially if you have a family history of prostate cancer that strikes before age 50. "In certain men it might be very useful to do PSA testing and a digital rectal exam to screen for prostate cancer," says Dr. Blazey. "That's where it's important to have a good relationship with your family doctor."
Meanwhile, if you've noticed any changes downstairs, bring 'em up. Prostate cancer isn't the only thing that can go wrong with your gland. Do you wake up several times at night to pee? Are your boners a little softer than usual? You could have an easily treatable urological issue such as prostatitis, so don't be shy. "A lot of times I'll have a patient who comes in, and he's had a problem for weeks or months, but he hasn't talked to anyone about it," Dr. Blazey says. (Reduce your risk with this complete prostate-cancer prevention plan.)
Don't be embarrassed -- your seemingly mortifying problem may be a daily occurrence in your doc's office. "The most embarrassing thing a patient comes in with, usually I've seen it before," Dr. Blazey says.
"So Dad, about your junk . . ."
But Movember isn't just about you. In fact, since prostate cancer strikes at age 67 on average, your most important conversation of the month might just be with your pops.
Talking to your dad about his junk? Definitely awkward, but your 'stache gives you a segue. Just ask: Hey, have you seen a doctor lately? Ask whether he's discussed screening options. "Men in their 20s and 30s have been brought up to be more open to talking about health care issues than our parents, so a lot of times it's great for sons to start the conversation," Dr. Blazey says. You and the old man spend time talking about how the car's running, so why not talk about your plumbing?
Plus, now's a good time to grill the big guy about any prostate problems he or other family members have experienced. "It's really important for older men to have an open discussion with their sons or grandchildren about what experiences they've had to overcome, so that the kids don't repeat the mistakes or they can have additional screening to prevent disease in the future," Dr. Blazey says.
So now that you've stowed away your razor for the month, it's time to rock that 'stache the right way. Check out Movember CEO Adam Garone's Must-Have Mustache Tips, then take inspiration from our list of The Best Mustaches of All Time.
More from Men's Health:
- 8 Steps to Prevent Prostate Cancer
- Should You Treat Prostate Cancer--Or Not?
- Show Us Your ‘Stache!
- Grow a Mustache, Cure Cancer!
More from NBCNews.com health:
- Presidents don't age any faster than the rest of us
- Why men are less likely to eat veggies
- New study fuels debate on prostate cancer tests
© 2012 Rodale Inc. All rights reserved.