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Mustaches for Movember

Facial hair raises prostate cancer awareness, research funds

By Sheena Faherty
November 20, 2014
Movember at Duke

During the month of November, Duke doctors grow their facial hair in support of the Movember Foundation. The movement raises awareness and funds for prostate cancer and other men’s health issues.

Why All the Mustaches?

People are used to seeing Andrew Armstrong, MD, clean-shaven in his crisp white doctor’s coat. But every November, the Duke cancer specialist skips the razor and lets his “Easy Rider”-esque handlebar mustache grow in honor of "Movember." 

The Movember Foundation is an international campaign that has raised $559 million since it began in 2003. It encourages men to grow facial hair during November to spark conversations about men's health, and prostate cancer in particular. In the U.S., 1 in 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. That’s about 230,000 men every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Movember is both a fundraiser and a way to build awareness for men’s health issues,” Armstrong, MD, said. “It’s aligned with our goals to identify prostate cancer earlier, to treat the disease effectively and keep men at the top of their game. We want to focus on research efforts, and help men survive a longer period of time with a good quality of life.”

Michael Ferrandino, MD, a urologic oncologist, said growing facial hair prompts conversations. “Patients approach you, people on the street approach you, people in the neighbor that don’t usually see you with this fuzzy upper lip come up to you ask, ‘Why are you growing this mustache?’” he said. “It brings their attention to these issues.” 

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The 200 members of Duke Health’s Movember campaign have far surpassed the $1,500 they raised last year, collecting nearly $10,000 so far.

MoDukes at Duke University

For the past three years, Duke’s department of urology has been participating in Movember, and “trying to raise funds in a silo,” said Ferrandino. This year, Duke doctors are amplifying their participation by including the entire campus. 

Their fundraising effort -- MoDukes -- now includes Duke athletics, Duke undergraduates and graduate students, fraternities, residency programs, Duke University Hospital and the Duke Cancer Center. In addition to awareness, they hope to raise money for prostate cancer research through events and raffles—and their efforts have paid off. The 200 members of Duke Health’s Movember campaign have far surpassed the $1,500 they raised last year, collecting nearly $10,000 so far. 

Michael Granieri, MD, a urology resident who spearheaded the MoDukes’ effort with Armstrong, spoke to the fun side of the Movember campaign. “Everybody grows out mustaches at different paces, or has different colored mustaches. Other people can’t grow mustaches at all. We can poke fun at each other.” 

Men with prostate cancer show their support too

The real face of Movember, are men like Lee Byrd, who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer at age 56 after years of putting off his regular check-ups.

“Two things men don’t like to do is go to the doctor and ask for directions, so thank God for wives and GPS,” said Byrd, a partner at a commercial real estate firm in Raleigh.

After an operation and radiation therapy, his prostate cancer returned. Byrd felt he was out of options, but found hope at Duke under the care of Armstrong, who offered him alternatives for treatment. 

By sharing his story, Byrd is doing his part, too. Having faced the reality of a cancer diagnosis, he now realizes the importance of preventive medicine and raising awareness for prostate cancer through campaigns such as Movember.

“Once you find out you have cancer, it’s the type of thing you don’t share with the world." But if being part of this effort "can help in some way, somebody might be going to the doctor earlier, then its been a good day’s work,” he said. 

MoDukes in the news

The MoDukes' fundraising campaign has appeared in the following media outlets:

Duke Health spreads men's health awareness - Time Warner Cable

Let it Grow VideoWNCN video features a cameo from the MoDukes

Duke Doctors Take Part in No-Shave November - Yahoo News

Battle of the ‘Staches Raises Money for Men’s Health Scientific American 

Bring on the Hair! Duke Doctors Taking Part in ‘Movember” - WTVD

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