Prostate cancer is a common and potentially very serious disease. In the USA, it's the second most common cause of cancer-related death among men. Unfortunately, many people are reluctant to discuss it openly and even more reluctant to get tested for it. With this little installation, I'm hoping to at least get people thinking about it.
The sign reads:
Don't let prostate cancer catch you by surprise
1 in 6 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer.
1 in 36 men will die from it.
If you're male and over 50, ask your doctor about testing.
So far, I've only made one of these sculptures and installed it in the city of San Francisco, CA. I'd be delighted if other people joined in and made their own sculptures in their own home towns. Let's get people talking about rectal exams!
For full instructions, read on.
A few thoughts on the wording of the sign
I wanted to choose a few key facts that would grab people's attention without overloading them with information. I intentionally chose not to say, "if you are n years old then you should get screened."
While prostate cancer is extremely common, it varies hugely in its severity and need of treatment. The benefits of widespread prostate cancer screening are unclear and controversial. Perhaps surprisingly, there is no evidence that indiscriminate screening leads to any reduction in mortality and it certainly leads to an increase in painful and expensive medical treatments which often later turn out to be unnecessary.
However, certain people are at more risk than others. If you have a strong family history of prostate cancer or have been suffering from any its symptoms and are between 40 and 70 you should consider getting tested. You should certainly have a discussion with your doctor about the merits of testing. The test consists of a simple blood test (prostate serum antigen or PSA*) and a socially awkward but usually painless rectal exam. It might not sound pleasant, but it could save your life. As many surgeons will tell you, "If you don't put your finger in it, you'll put your foot in it."
(*this whole art installation could be thought of as a PSA PSA)