Father’s Day puts dads at the forefront with backyard barbecues, rounds of golf, funny cards and heartfelt gifts. But when it comes to paying attention to their own health, men aren’t doing so well.
A recent Cleveland Clinic survey of 1,000 men found that 55% admit they don’t regularly visit a doctor. This is a long-term trend that was reinforced during COVID. The rates for cancer screenings dropped dramatically in the last three years, and this presents a challenge for healthcare providers. How do you instill a healthy mindset in a group such as men who already stubbornly lean toward ignoring preventive care?
Prostate cancer, the second leading cause of cancer deaths among American men, is especially concerning because by the time symptoms develop the disease is at an advanced stage. After declining consistently for two decades following Food and Drug Administration approval of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening in 1994, deaths from prostate cancer are now on the upswing. This is likely in part due to newer guidance against regular screenings, as well as reduced cancer screening rates prompted by the pandemic. U.S. prostate cancer deaths had dropped to 26,370 in 2017, but last year prostate cancer took 34,500 lives. That’s an increase of more than 8,000 deaths annually and will likely go up even further during the next five years. As a result of less frequent screenings, urologists now encounter more men that first present with higher grades of cancer, which are difficult to successfully treat.
Convincing men to get screened for prostate cancer requires fresh thinking and creativity. Guys already avoid regular doctor visits, so healthcare providers cannot count on physicians to reverse the trend by ordering screening tests during routine office visits. Much like mobile vans helped boost mammography rates among women, healthcare providers need to consider community outreach options designed with 40-plus-year-old-men in mind.
I speak from experience because when I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2008 at the age of 47 it was only because a friend who worked with me at Mower was battling the disease and urged guys at the agency to talk to their doctors. I only asked for the simple PSA blood test because of what he had told me. Like most men I did not know the basics about prostate cancer, thinking it only threatened older men and was something you died with and not from. I was wrong. My friend passed away from prostate cancer. His example of urging men to get screened caused me to rally family, friends and work colleagues to found Pints for Prostates.
Pints for Prostates is a 501(c)(3) grassroots campaign designed to raise awareness among men about prostate cancer and the importance of early detection in fighting the disease. The idea was a simple one. If men weren’t visiting doctors’ offices for routine tests, we’d go to places they were frequenting: breweries, pubs and beer festivals. Pints for Prostates works to engage men in a conversation about their health in a relaxed and non-threatening way. By having some fun with a topic they would rather avoid, we are able to reach a population of men who might otherwise ignore traditional health messages.
Using the universal language of beer to reach people, Pints for Prostates has raised more than $2 million for our awareness mission. Working with the Prostate Conditions Education Council and healthcare providers across the country, we have funded free health screenings for thousands of men. Yes, while men ignore the advice to get regular physical exams, they willingly roll up their sleeves at beer festivals to give a blood sample that results in a confidential report being mailed to their home a week later that not only has their PSA number, but also gives them cholesterol, glucose and testosterone scores.
On Sunday, June 21, Alamo Beer Company in San Antonio hosted FatherFest, an annual celebration that features food, beer and music—along with a free screening where 75 to 100 guys will get tested. Eugene Simor, the founder and CEO of Alamo Beer, is a fellow prostate cancer survivor and part of the craft beer community that has adopted the Pints for Prostates campaign. And tickets went on sale Sunday for the Denver Rare Beer Tasting. This will be the 14th edition of our signature event, which takes place on Sept. 22 during the Great American Beer Festival weekend in Denver. Each time Pints for Prostates holds an event we reach people who have ignored the risks of prostate cancer and have previously not been screened.
Healthcare providers should focus on creative avenues to reach men and remove barriers to diagnostic screening. This takes some effort and new thinking, but the results can be as direct as helping to ensure that come Father’s Day 2024 more men will be around the table to celebrate with their families.