November is the month in which the Netherlands and the world draw extra attention to a men’s disease that is increasingly affecting the population: prostate cancer. The Movember Foundation wants men to grow their mustaches that month – Mo is from ‘moustache’ (moustache) and vember from November – to raise awareness for prostate cancer (and for testicular cancer and men’s health in general). Just Google it and a world will open up for you.
My advertising colleague Christian Oerlemans – creator of the Even Apeldoorn Calling campaigns, among other things – wrote the book ‘Men, your silent killer is called testosterone’ a few years ago. Christian was diagnosed with prostate cancer and tells in his book how he was treated for the disease and many interesting aspects that played a role in it. Like testosterone. This male sex hormone is known to have a direct relationship with prostate cancer. In fact, testosterone stimulates the growth of prostate cancer. Although scientists are still investigating, it is feared that men with naturally high testosterone levels are more likely to develop prostate cancer.
Athletes, especially intensive ones, are known to produce a lot of testosterone. And therefore have a greater risk of developing problems with the prostate. That does not necessarily have to be cancer. Urinary complaints and erection problems can also have other causes, such as inflammation, enlargement of the prostate or other irregularities that can lead to discomfort. But in any case, testosterone is a major culprit and exercising too much is not necessarily healthy.
You know the expression: I could write a book about that. So that’s what I did. Because it was my turn too. About two years ago, I suddenly had blood in my semen and urine. An inflammation, that was the initial diagnosis from my doctor. Pill treatment and luckily, the blood disappeared. But my PSA level had risen. PSA – Prostate Specific Antigen – is an indication of the condition of your prostate and can be measured when you have your blood taken. So no inflammation. Unfortunately. But, after the necessary not too pleasant examinations, prostate cancer.
I ended up on a rollercoaster of CT scans, MRI scans, biopsies, gold markers and radiation, where the doctors at the St. Franciscus Gasthuis and the Erasmus MC proved that they are among the best in the world. And so I wrote a book about it, see the website www.fuckikhebprostaatkanker.nl. It recently appeared. Not only do I report, in a sometimes rather light-hearted manner, my entire adventure from the discovery of my urinary discomfort to the almost militaristic approach in the hospitals. I also make two calls.
The first for elderly men – read: around fifty and older – and men who exercise and/or have exercised a lot. Have your PSA level tested regularly, go to your doctor and be on the safe side. Make sure you are there on time and don’t think as haughtily as I do – more than half a century of intensive sports, nothing can happen to me – because you really have no idea how vulnerable you are.
The second call is to the government. There are national population surveys for breast cancer, cervical cancer and colon cancer. But not to prostate cancer. Isn’t it about time?