NFL Brings Men’s Health Taboo to the Forefront
Prostate cancer is a silent killer. Although it’s the most common cancer among men, affecting nearly one in seven in their lifetimes, prostate cancer does not always get the same attention or awareness as other types of cancers. The National Football League Alumni Association, LabCorp and the Cancer Treatment Centers of America have teamed up to change this.
The public awareness campaign combines NFL-sponsored public service announcements and nationwide free and reduced cost cancer screenings for men in at-risk demographics. This campaign is one of several similar campaigns the NFL Alumni Association has helped to co-sponsor, and it’s aimed at helping thousands of men across the country get tested for prostate cancer while also encouraging their friends and relatives to speak up about this often overlooked disease.
In 2017 alone, it’s estimated that there will be 161,360 new prostate cancer diagnoses. All men can be at risk for prostate cancer, but it’s most prevalent among African American men. A family history of cancer can also increase an individual’s odds of developing this disease. It’s recommended that all men, especially those in a high risk demographic, begin receiving screenings for prostate specific antigens starting at age 40.
Here are some other key prostate cancer statistics to bear in mind:
– 26,730 men are expected to die of prostate cancer in 2017
– Prostate cancer counts for about 4.4 percent of all cancer deaths
– Approximately 11.6 percent of men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lives
– Relative survival for prostate cancer is high, especially when it’s caught early
– Prostate cancer signs and symptoms usually do not appear until very late, when cancer is more difficult to treat and survival rates are lower
– Prostate specific antigen (PSA) screening can provide an early glimpse at potential cancer and identify it years before symptoms would occur
– Thanks in part to improved screening techniques, prostate cancer rates have decreased steadily over the last 10 years
Caught early, prostate cancer is highly treatable. However, many men are unaware of the risk or are too nervous or self-conscious to ask their doctors about unusual symptoms until they worsen. By promoting cancer awareness and making it easier to access prostate cancer screenings, the Cancer Treatment Centers of America and National Football League Alumni Association seek to turn around these frightening statistics and help to prevent the devastating disease from affecting more lives unnecessarily.
A Partnership with LabCorp
LabCorp is one of the largest clinical laboratory networks in the world. Headquartered in Burlington, North Carolina, LabCorp operates laboratories in 36 different locations. Its laboratories test for a variety of different things, including extensive oncological screening.
Overall, there are 220,000 clients working with LabCorp across the country. Of these, 1,750 locations will be offering free or reduced price prostate specific antigen screenings in conjunction with the Cancer Treatment Centers of America and NFL’s awareness campaign.
How Does the Prostate Screening Work?
The PSA screening test offered by LabCorp is a simple and minimally invasive blood test. There is no need for a physical exam or rectal exam to complete a PSA screening.
The screening works by testing a small amount of a man’s blood to look for prostate-specific antigens (PSA), which are specific proteins made by the prostate gland. An elevated PSA count may be a sign of abnormal prostate function and could suggest cancer or an elevated risk of developing cancer.
Bear in mind that prostate screening is not the same as a diagnosis. It is, however, one way to identify problems before they become severe. A PSA screening can notice prostate issues long before other symptoms arise. All men above the age of 40 are encouraged to receive annual screenings, and normalizing these screenings through a public awareness campaign is a great step toward encouraging more regular screenings and overall discussions of prostate health.
Prostate Screening Saves Lives
Prostate tumors tend to grow very slowly. A tumor discovered at an early stage may grow for years without causing any damaging effects. However, identifying a possible tumor through PSA screening allows a physician to monitor the growth and development of potential cancer and determine the appropriate course of treatment.
Most men with an elevated level of PSA do not have prostate cancer. However, an elevated PSA is an early sign or indication of potential cancer and can be the first vital step toward seeking additional treatment and diagnosis. Routine PSA screenings can also help to follow up with cancer patients to see if cancer has potentially returned as well as identify the growth or severity of potential tumors. You can discuss any further questions you have about the test with your physician.
Free and Discounted Cancer Screenings
From September 1 through October 15, 2,000 eligible men may receive a free Prostate Specific Antigen screening by LabCorp. These screenings are funded by the NFL and Cancer Treatment Centers of America and are available at any of LabCorp’s 1,750 locations across the country.
Men who miss the opportunity for a free screening can still schedule a heavily discounted PSA screening at the price of $25. Sign-ups are available throughout the entire period from September 1 to October 15, and the screening itself can occur at any time within six months of the sign-up date.
In order to be eligible for the screening, you must be a man over the age of 40. It is recommended that any man in a high-risk demographic, including African Americans and men with a family history of prostate cancer, receive PSA screening tests annually starting at age 40. All other men should begin these annual screenings between the ages of 45 and 50 in order to most effectively catch cancer early.
The PSA screening works by identifying abnormal levels of specific antigens associated with cancer. An abnormal test does not necessarily indicate cancer, nor does it dictate the type of treatment necessary. However, high levels of PSA may indicate an increased risk of cancer and should be the first indication that a man should speak with his doctor about other possible warning signs.
Other signs and symptoms of prostate cancer include:
– Difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection
– Blood in the urine
– Pain in the pelvic region or lower back
– Weakness or numbness in the lower extremities
– Loss of bladder or bowel control
Because these signs are non-specific and can be caused by a number of other factors, it’s always a good idea for men to talk to their doctors whenever any concerning symptoms are noted. A PSA screening and digital rectal exam are required in order to effectively identify cancer; additional tests, including a tissue biopsy, may be required for a diagnosis.
Breaking the Taboo Surrounding Men’s Health Issues
Because the prostate is a sensitive subject and one that may seem “taboo,” men are especially unlikely to raise concerns with their doctors. By relieving some of the stigma associated with prostate cancer and hosting an open and honest conversation about the topic, the NFL Alumni Association and CTCA seek to help men protect their health and draw attention to this serious disease.
Men, especially older men, are also frequently reluctant to seek medical attention and preventative care. There may be a stigma against the appearance of being “weak” by pursuing medical care. For this reason, men are often more likely than women to put off necessary medical diagnostics and screening as well as being more reluctant to seek treatment.
This is an issue that the NFL Alumni Association seeks to tackle head-on with its public service announcement campaign. By giving cancer awareness the voice of trusted figures from the NFL, the campaign seeks to normalize discussions of cancer screening and reduce the stigma against asking for help. Several NFL former head coaches have teamed up to work on this program, and they lend their personal experience and authority to the cause.
In addition to offering free and discounted cancer screenings, the NFL and Cancer Treatment Centers of America are working together to promote a public awareness campaign, Prostate Pep Talks, spearheaded by former NFL head coaches Dick Vermeil, Herm Edwards and Bill Cowher. The campaign utilized public service announcements broadcast nationally throughout September, which is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.
The campaign kicked off officially on August 30, with a press conference held at NFL Films in Mount Laurel, New Jersey. In addition, multiple other campaign events were held in cities nationwide including Atlanta, Chicago, Tulsa and Phoenix.
This is not the first such awareness campaign that the NFL has helped to run. Previously, the NFL has teamed up with the American Urological Association to run a similar campaign, “Know Your Stats.” This awareness-based activism campaign worked to boost visibility and awareness of prostate cancer and its risk factors and signs.
This year’s Prostate Pep Talks campaign takes things a step further by not only spreading awareness but by encouraging men nationwide to take action and providing affordable, discreet ways to do it. Men who may otherwise be put off by the idea of asking their doctors about their prostate health can participate in the nationwide screening and use the results as a jumping-off point for conversations with their doctors.
About the Cancer Treatment Centers of America
Cancer Treatment Centers of America is a national network of hospitals serving cancer patients throughout the country. The for-profit organization is headquarters in Boca Raton, Florida, with additional locations in Illinois, Oklahoma, pennsylvania, Arizona and Georgia.
Cancer Treatment Centers of America combines conventional treatment approaches with integrative therapies to provide a more holistic approach to managing cancer symptoms and side effects. The organization was founded originally by Richard J. Stephenson in 1988. Stephenson, not satisfied with the treatment options available to his mother when she was diagnosed with cancer, believed that greater progress could be made in that arena. Since then, CTCA has stood as a beacon for cancer treatment, research and awareness.
Cancer Treatment Centers of America offers patient-centered care based upon the most modern understandings of cancer treatment. Its team of board-certified oncologists span a wide range of specialties. In addition to providing top-quality medical care, CTCA is also committed to spreading awareness and helping to reduce risk factors wherever possible.
This year’s prostate cancer awareness campaign is one of many similar campaigns the Cancer Treatment Centers of America have helped to spearhead. Cancer Treatment Centers of America has previously teamed up with the Chicago Bears football team with its “Tackle Prostate Cancer” awareness and fundraising campaign. Another well-known campaign, Stand Up to Cancer, was a collaborative public service campaign utilizing Christina Applegate as a spokesperson in a series of print, digital and radio ads.
Because prostate cancer is highly treatable when diagnosed early, the Cancer Treatment Centers of America has committed itself to spreading awareness and encouraging at-risk patients to seek screenings and talk to their doctors about the risks of prostate cancer. To this end, teaming up with the NFL Alumni Association was a natural decision.
The NFL Lends its Voice to Prostate Cancer Awareness
The National Football League Alumni Association is a nonprofit organization founded in 1967. The group is composed of NFL alumni, including former players, coaches and other team staff members. These alumni volunteer to provide for a variety of charitable causes, including youth sports and.
Prostate cancer awareness had become an increasingly important cause for the NFL Alumni Association due to the prevalence of prostate cancer among its members and their loved ones. Many professional athletes, coaches and other NFL alumni have dealt with prostate cancer or have friends and loved ones who have struggled with the disease.
One particularly high profile case is Lamar Hunt, one of the founders of the American Football League and man who coined the term “Super Bowl.” The owner of the Kansas City Chiefs, Hunt regrettably passed away in 2006 due to complications from prostate cancer. His death serves as a stark reminder to men today that prostate cancer can be deadly if not caught and treated early.
Hunt is far from the only well-known name in football to have fought with this disease, and not every story from the NFL has an unhappy ending. Hall of Famer Michael Hayes struggled with prostate cancer as well; he was diagnosed after participating in a screening event in 2008. He has since won his battle with the disease and has been cancer-free for five years.
Other famous football players, coaches and NFL alumni who have struggled with prostate cancer include:
– Johnny Unitas
– Marv Levy
– Len Dawson
– Todd McMillon
Mike Haynes has been a vocal supporter of routine prostate cancer screening since having his own cancer diagnosed after such a public screening event. He has championed this and other public awareness campaigns and is one of many influential voices in professional sports to do so.
In addition to public awareness campaigns aimed at the general population, the NFL has also provided prostate cancer screenings for retired players since 2007. For the past decade, the NFL has worked alongside the urology Care Foundation to provide these screenings and promote awareness of prostate cancer and related issues among its retired players and alumni.
You can learn more about the NFL and its ongoing efforts to speak up about prostate cancer by visiting KnowYourStats.org, a website dedicated to prostate cancer information.
What Are Prostate Pep Talks?
In addition to helping to provide prostate screening to men across the country, the partnership between the NFL Alumni Association and the Cancer Treatment Centers of America has also fostered a series of ads aimed at public awareness.
The Prostate Pep Talk public service announcements are 30-second commercials taking the form of a locker room peptalk between a coach and team members. In the ad, prostate cancer is treated as the opposing team, with statistics laid out like sports plays on a white board. It’s a fun, lighthearted approach to a serious topic, and it underlines the importance of viewing cancer screenings as a team effort.
In their talks, the NFL Alumni Association has encouraged men to look out both for themselves and for their friends and relatives who may be at risk. With one in seven men likely to develop prostate cancer, the odds are good that at least one man in any social get-together will develop the disease. By thinking of it like a sports team environment, men are encouraged to look out for one another and spread awareness of this frequently overlooked disease.
Another promotional spot, “Are You Tougher Than an NFL Coach?” runs two-and-a-half minutes and features former NFL head coaches Bill Cowher, Dick Vermeil, Herm Edwards. It’s a somber but heartfelt message addressing the issues of cancer and screening head on, discussing the personal experiences of the coaches and their families. The core message, “Don’t be too tough to get screened,” brings to light an important issue about men’s health and the reluctance of many men to seek assistance.
If you haven’t caught the ads on television, you can view them on YouTube through the Cancer Treatment Centers of America account.
**UPDATE**11.16.2017 Learn more about CTCA on Indeed.com
**UPDATE**October 16th, 2017 Cancer Treatment Centers of America has been ranked among the top hospitals in the U.S. Read about it here.