By raising awareness and debunking myths, a Mexican patient advocacy group is hoping to move the needle on prostate cancer and its impact in the country.
It is the most prevalent form of cancer in the country with seven thousand Mexican men dying annually from the disease.1
The death rate is driven by fear and misconceptions, says Dr Hugo Manzanilla, a urologist who worked with the Asociación Mexicana de Lucha Contra el Cáncer (AMLCC) to promote a press and social media awareness campaign called #estoesserio, which roughly translates to “it’s serious” or “take it seriously”. This campaign was designed to offer education and support.
“The main reason men do not undergo preventive check-ups is due to the fear of and the prejudice against diagnostic tests, especially the digital rectal exam. Many believe it affects masculinity,” explains Dr Manzanilla, adding that “it is important for doctors to properly inform patients about this procedure, so they feel safe and are able to prioritize health over any prejudices.”
Communicate without taboos
The awareness campaign that distributed press kits containing key statistics, patient stories and trusted, evidence-based information to various media outlets, also tackled the myths surrounding prostate cancer treatment.
“Another factor that influences the perception of prostate cancer treatments is the high risk of developing erectile dysfunction, which can affect sexual performance,” according to Dr Manzanilla.
He acknowledges that although this issue is a potential consequence of the treatment, there is support and alternative medicine or treatment available for patients that qualify, in the case that intimacy issues do arise.
“If a patient does experience erectile dysfunction – and such physical needs are a big concern – good communication between partners and their spouses that is free of fear or taboos is very important,” says Dr Manzanilla.
Campaign attracts attention
The campaign has gained significant coverage in various newspapers and magazines, including Mexico’s leading financial publication, El Financiero Bloomberg.
Dr Manzanilla, and volunteer, Hugo Valdés, gave a television interview for the channel’s La Nota Dura segment and spoke about the symptoms, risk factors and current treatments of prostate cancer, while stressing the importance of preventive check-ups at a time when delayed diagnosis of prostate cancer is common in the country.
“In the press kit, we used reliable health information from trusted sources. In this first phase, we managed to get some news outlets to talk about the condition and raise awareness. Now, we will continue to provide information to the press and to influencers,” notes Mayra Galindo, general director at AMLCC.
Into Mexican living rooms
The next phase is based primarily on a digital campaign that will convey AMLCC’s message directly in the hands of men across Mexico. “So far, we have positioned all materials on social media platforms through news media outlets and other organizations’ Twitter and Facebook accounts. To follow up on #estoesserio, we’ve developed an additional digital strategy,” she adds.
A collaborative approach is key
The campaign’s continued success can, at least in part, be attributed to a collaborative approach that has brought clinicians, advocates and patients together under a common goal.
Alianza Uniendo Fuerzas Contra el Cáncer de Próstata is a unique alliance in Mexico that joins patient associations, academics and medical specialists from various regions of the country, with the objective of establishing a specific action plan for prostate cancer care in our country, reveals Galindo.
“Since the start of this alliance, several inter-institutional roundtables have been held with the objective of analyzing the issues surrounding prostate cancer and developing a series of proposals to present to the Senate of the Republic and in the Chamber of Deputies,” she adds.
The organization also held workshops to provide details about the changes needed in the sector if prostate cancer deaths are to be reduced, as well as various one-on-one meetings with high-level politicians. Additionally, it participated in the first forum on the National Development Plan (PND) as part of the health committee at the beginning of March.
“The strength of this alliance is found in the diversity of its participants and the knowledge shared – allowing us to build proposals that address the problem in a more comprehensive manner,” adds Galindo.
Cáncer de próstata, padecimiento mortal y silencioso. (2017, December 26). Retrieved from https://www.gob.mx/salud/prensa/514-cancer-de-prostata-padecimiento-mortal-y-silencioso