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For more information about Amarillo's local Prostate Cancer
Support Group:

Ed Sellers
Dick Miller

Jon Mark Beilue: What about men's cancer?
It's time for some fairness awareness

 

By Jon Mark Beilue  Amarillo Globe News, October 16, 2009

Here's a little trivia: When is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month? This is not a trick question. There actually is one.



 

Not that anyone would know, or seem to care. It's just men, anyway.
 

Perhaps you've heard, but October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Even cave dwellers in the hinterlands of Montana know that. Pink is replacing red, white and blue as our national color.
 

NFL games the first weekend of October were awash in pink - pink wristbands, pink caps, pink borders on cleats. Texas Tech students at a game with New Mexico were wearing pink shirts that were passed out for free. "Think Pink, Go Red!" was the day's motto.
 

Network morning news shows have filled programming this month to tell of breast cancer survivors and the importance of regular mammograms. Corporate America has partnered together, both on a national and local level, to sponsor awareness.
 

All of this is worthy. If it saves lives, how could it not be? Yet something doesn't seem quite right here. Not in this important message, but that it's the only message of its kind out there.
 

Prostate cancer is the men's version of breast cancer. The statistics are nearly the same. The American Cancer Society estimates there will be 192,000 cases of prostate cancer this year with nearly 30,000 deaths. The same organization estimates 186,000 new cases of breast cancer with 41,000 deaths.
 

Prostate cancer knows no political slant. Presidential candidates Bob Dole and John Kerry have had it. So has Rudy Giuliani. Military leaders can't ward it off - witness Gen. Colin Powell and Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf.
 

Prostate cancer crosses sports, from baseball manager Joe Torre to golfer Arnold Palmer. An Oscar is no prevention - ask actor Robert DeNiro.
 

Rockers Frank Zappa and Johnny Ramone, actors Bill Bixby, Telly Savalas and Jerry Orbach of "Law and Order," entertainment mogul Merv Griffin, poet Robert Frost, Nobel Prize chemist Linus Pauling, and Earl Woods, Tiger Woods' father, have all died from prostate cancer.
 

Statistics seem to indicate that men are as likely to get prostate cancer and almost as likely to die as women are from breast cancer, but as far as national awareness, it gets a collective shrug of the shoulders. It doesn't make sense.

"We can put it at its most basic level," said Dick Miller, a prostate cancer survivor. "It's men versus women."
 

 



Statistics seem to indicate that men are as likely to get prostate cancer and almost as likely to die as women are from breast cancer, but as far as national awareness, it gets a collective shrug of the shoulders. It doesn't make sense.

 

"We can put it at its most basic level," said Dick Miller, a prostate cancer survivor. "It's men versus women."
 

Not every disease can get national attention -- heart disease, for example, kills eight times as many women as breast cancer. There's just too many diseases, not enough time. But it would seem some sense of obligation of, shall we say, fairness awareness, would prevail when it's so obvious how similar these two cancers are.
 

Is it because women, starting with the Susan G. Komen Foundation, are just more motivated and organized? Is it because breast cancer strikes women of all ages, while prostate cancer primarily hits men as they hit their 50s? Did breast cancer groups just get to corporate America first? Is it political?
 

Major League Baseball can swing pink bats and wear pink wristbands on Mother's Day for breast cancer - and that's wonderful - but forget about returning the gesture on Father's Day with the color blue, which is rumored to be the symbolic color for prostate cancer. Why is that?
 

Why do other professional sports, which draw a majority of a male audience, do virtually nothing for awareness? You would think the U.S. Golf Association, the sport of many middle-aged men, the sport of Palmer and Tiger Woods' father, would take a lead role. Not really.
 

"You don't see any President's Cup people wearing blue ribbons," Miller said.
 

Miller and especially Ed Sellers, leaders of a local prostate cancer support group, have been vigilant in raising awareness.
 

But it's a lonely fight. Sellers has stood in front of Wal-Marts passing out awareness cards and mailed his share of birthday cards from the American Cancer Society as a reminder for checkups. He senses, and rightly so, it's an individual fight.
 

The thing is, I'd say men, more than women, are reluctant to get a checkup. We stubborn macho slobs probably need the awareness and encouragement more than smarter women. Yes, it may be the dreaded digital exam and the more appealing PSA exam, but it's better than the alternative.
 

"If you do feel the symptoms," Miller said, "let me put this in the most delicate way possible - you're screwed."



Maybe one day the footing will be somewhat equal and pink and blue can work in tandem. It would only make sense. But first things first. Prostate Cancer Awareness month is September. I looked it up.



Jon Mark Beilue’s column appears Sunday, Wednesday and Friday in the Amarillo Globe News.
He can be reached at jon.beilue@amarillo.com or 806-345-3318. His blog appears on amarillo.com