CENTRAL TEXAS -- Men in Central Texas are teaming up to raise awareness and funds for men's health issues.
"Men are 30 years behind women in health, and it's really important that we start to talk about our health," said Matt Ferstler, the CEO and founder of the Austin-based Testicular Cancer Foundation. Ferstler was a college student at St. Edward's University when he first noticed something was off.
"January 2008, I noticed there was something different down there. I talked to my parents, I talked to everybody -- they said, 'Oh they're perfectly fine,'" Ferstler said.
But a year later, Ferstler still felt off. When he went to see a urologist, he was diagnosed with Stage 1 testicular cancer. He was treated with outpatient surgery, and underwent testing for five years after his initial diagnosis.
Frustrated with the lack of information available, Ferstler started the Testicular Cancer Foundation. One of their biggest pushes was No Shave November, a worldwide push where men grow their facial hair during the month of November, and pledge donations to a variety of men's health charities. Ferstler teamed up with about a dozen police departments throughout Central Texas to raise the funds. But besides funding, it's created an important dialogue.
"People all the time notice that somebody has a beard on that doesn't normally wear a beard. And they say, 'Hey what are you doing that for?'" said Ferstler. He said he's excited about the growth of the push in Central Texas.
"Every officer that pays $25 towards the organization is then allowed at that department to grow a beard. We're seeing that this year, we went from two departments last year to 10 to 15 total departments. And we're really excited to see the growth in that," said Ferstler. They're still collecting pledges from people who participated, but estimate they will raise $15,000 this year.
Testicular cancer is the most common form of cancer among men age 15-35. For older men, physicians said to beware of prostate cancer.
"Eighty percent of men, when they die, autopsy's show that they have some type of prostate cancer," said Dr. Matthew McCurdy, a radiation oncologist who practices at St. David's South Austin Medical Center.
Dr. McCurdy said advances in tests have made it easier to detect, but there is growing debate over the need for such tests. He says the Center for Medicare Service is pushing to stop prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening.
"We may actually revert back to what we saw 20, 30 years ago, where men would be diagnosed with prostate cancer when it would spread to the bone and they would be dying of prostate cancer instead of other causes," said Dr. McCurdy.
Prostate cancer is a slow-growing cancer, and is believed to be an underlying cause rather than a direct cause of death in most cases. McCurdy said the U.S. Preventive Serves Task Force performed a randomized trial that showed there was no change in prostate cancer deaths using PSA screening. However, he disagrees with the group's study methods.
"There were several significant flaws, scientific flaws, statistical flaws in that trial that have been repeatedly presented to the U.S. Preventive (Services) Task Force," McCurdy said.
He encourages all men in their 50s to begin getting tested for prostate cancer, and to learn about family history of the disease.
To find out more about screening methods and support groups for testicular cancer, click here. The Testicular Cancer Foundation said all donations until Jan. 1 will be matched up to $125,000.