Men, put down your razors! No-shave November and Movember have commenced. This month, across the globe, men will change their grooming habits, growing beards and mustaches, all in the name of men’s health awareness. The two movements—No-shave November and Movember were created by with similar but distinct purposes. In 2003, a group of Australian men started Movember, dedicating the month of November to growing mustaches that can start discussions about men’s health. They wanted these conversations to focus on prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health. Several years later, inspired to action by the loss of their father, a Chicago-based family started No-shave November—a month where men redirect their grooming funds to organizations focused on cancer awareness.
“These movements serve an important purpose—getting men to talk about health issues that are specific to their gender,” Stephen Ruyle, MD, a board-certified urologist with the Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at Swedish Medical Center. “Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among men, with more than 47,000 diagnoses each year. The good news is that the cancer is highly treatable, especially when diagnosed early. That’s why conversations around men’s cancers in November are so vital. The fun and light-hearted competition among men growing facial hair gives us an important opportunity.”
All about prostate cancer
The prostate is a small, walnut-shaped gland, unique to the male anatomy. Located under the bladder, it surrounds the urethra—the tube through which urine and semen pass. The purpose of the prostate is to produce the fluid that transports sperm (seminal fluid). As men age, the prostate gland gets larger. Sometimes, the prostate gland cells grow irregularly, forming a tumor of cancerous cells. If left unchecked, the cancer will spread outside the prostate.
“As with any cancer, prostate cancer is most treatable when discovered at the earliest stage. This is when the cancer is contained to the primary region,” Dr. Ruyle details. “However, cancer symptoms often are not apparent until the cancer has spread, which is why screening tests are so valuable.”
Screenings key to survival
Prostate cancer has one of the highest—if not the highest—survival rate. This is due, in part, to the efficacy of screening tests. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that men should have a conversation about prostate cancer screening with their doctors starting at age 50. For men who are at a higher risk, the conversation should begin at age 45. The most common screening test is the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. If the PSA levels come back high, further testing will be conducted to determine if prostate cancer is present. “Men at average risk should get a PSA test in their 50s,” Dr. Ruyle explains. “The results of this, and your personal health history will be factored into a screening schedule that is best for your specific needs.”
Men who are at a higher risk of prostate cancer include African American men and men with family history of prostate cancer (more than one first-degree relative with prostate cancer). “For men at an increased risk for prostate cancer, begin the conversation with your doctor in your 40s so you can be proactive about your health,” Dr. Ruyle encourages.
Symptoms not to ignore
Some patients experience symptoms of prostate cancer. These include frequent urination (especially at night); difficulty starting or holding back urination; weak or interrupted urine flow; painful or burning urination; painful ejaculation; blood in the urine or semen; pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips and upper thighs. “If you experience these symptoms, talk to your provider as soon as possible,” Dr. Ruyle implores. “Some of these symptoms can be related to other conditions, but your doctor is the best person to help determine the underlying cause.”
Robotic assistance improving treatment
If prostate cancer has been diagnosed, several treatment options are available, including chemotherapy, hormone therapy, radiation therapy, prostatectomy, and transurethral resection of the prostate. The team at the Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at Swedish Medical Center is unique in that each cancer patient’s case is reviewed by the tumor board. This group is comprised of experts from many disciplines who work together to create individualized treatment plans for patients. Often, the treatment includes surgical removal of part or all of the prostate—a prostatectomy.
“We are fortunate to have the Surgical Robotics Institute at Swedish Medical Center. The Institute has dedicated ORs and recovery space where we can perform highly advanced prostatectomies with robotic assistance,” Dr. Ruyle details. “The robot allows us to complete extremely precise procedures with minimal disruption to the body. For patients, this often means fewer complications, less blood loss, reduced pain, a shorter hospital stay, and a faster return to normal activity.”
Better health through distinctive facial hair
The Movember Foundation reports that 12% of men ages 18 years and older are in fair to poor health due to lack of awareness, not openly discussing health concerns, reluctance to take action, and prevalence of engaging in risky behavior. When you see what the Movember Foundation calls a ‘Mo Bro’ this month, Dr. Ruyle encourages you to strike up a conversation and be sure the men in your life are seeing their doctors regularly and undergoing the recommended cancer screenings. “That mustache might just save a life.”
Stephen Ruyle, MD, is a board-certified urologist with the Sarah cannon Cancer Institute at Swedish Medical Center. Dr. Ruyle received his Bachelor of Arts degree, with distinction, in molecular biology from the University of Colorado. He then earned his medical doctorate, with honors, from Dartmouth Medical School before general surgery training at Eastern Virginia Graduate School of Medicine in Norfolk, Virginia. Dr. Ruyle completed his urological surgery training at Harvard Medical School/Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. He is board certified by the American Board of Urology. Dr. Ruyle specializes in robotic prostatectomy and pelvic lymph node dissection for prostate cancer; treatment of prostate and bladder cancer; neurogenic bladder/spinal cord injury; kidney stone disease with extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy (ESWL), ureteroscopy/laser and percutaneous nephrolithotomy; treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) with transurethral resection and microwave therapy; male urinary incontinence. Dr. Ruyle believes in rising above the ordinary, providing the highest quality of medical care and building relationships with his patients.