Sometimes it seems as if every week or month is dedicated to raising awareness of a particular cancer. It can be difficult–if not impossible–to keep them all straight. The American Cancer Society’s website even has a “Cancer Awareness Calendar.” 
March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, as well as Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. April includes both National Oral, Head, and Neck Cancer Awareness Week and Testicular Cancer Awareness Week. June is Men’s Health/Cancer Awareness Month. September, of course, is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. But it is also Gynecologic (ovarian and uterine) Cancer Awareness Month, Multiple Myeloma Awareness Month, Leukemia and Lymphoma Awareness Month, Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, as well as Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month.
Given that prostate cancer shares the September stage with seven other cancers, September might better be called “Miscellaneous Cancers Awareness Month.
October is the domain of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and National Mammography Day on October 18. Only liver cancer is brave (or foolish) enough to share the stage with the Pink Behemoth during this month.
Let’s face it: Given all the awareness competition, prostate cancer is unlikely to gain the kind of widespread publicity in September that breast cancer has in October.
The evidence says it’s time for a new awareness strategy.
Frankly, it’s time to stop saying–rather defensively–“blue is to prostate cancer as pink is to breast cancer.” It’s time to stop having to explain to people what those blue ribbons mean. The intent is sound, but the approach is not proving to be the most effective path to win the hearts and minds (or open wallets) of the American public.
It’s time to get out of the September rut. Happily, we don’t have to look very far for a viable alternative. There’s already a fast-growing men’s health movement to which we can hitch our light blue ribbon: Movember. You can read about its origins here and here.
Movember, whose stated vision is “to have an everlasting impact on men’s health,” focuses on prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and men’s mental health. Movember is not associated with any colors, ribbons, or sponsored merchandise. The whole premise is simple: guys growing mustaches and raising money for men’s health. After all, mustaches generally look better on men than ribbons. And guys who are generally unwilling to talk about their prostates are much more likely to be willing to talk about their facial hair.
This is a men’s movement that includes a vital role for women: Mo Sista’s, which as the Movember web site points out, “have an important role in helping men to break down barriers and talk about their health. They are key to encouraging Mo Bros to share their own health journeys with each other and their health care professionals.” As those of us involved in prostate cancer advocacy well know, women are essential to raising awareness because they are often more willing to speak up for the sake of the men in their lives.
Some of you may argue, “but Movember isn’t just about prostate cancer.” Well, as noted above, neither is September.
So, as for me, I’m moving from September to Movember. Enough worrying about lighting the White House blue or hoping the NFL will wear blue on a September weekend. Movember is a worldwide movement; it isn’t suffering from a flooded market of competing ribbons; and I’m all for hopping on bandwagons that are already rolling.
I hope many of you agree and will join me in getting that facial hair going.