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Comic Books Raise Testicular Cancer Awareness

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Researchers have found a novel way to teach young men about testicular cancer through comic books. The impetus is to get young men to do more self screening for signs of the disease that primarily strikes men age 15 to 34.

According to Ryerson University School of Fashion professor and comic book artist David Brame, “Existing pamphlets about testicular cancer are usually written by healthcare providers, which means they may contain jargon that isn’t readily understood by the average person. Most pamphlets circulated at hospitals are also directed at patients, and do not reach the broader population.”

Many men remain unaware of the danger of testicular cancer. Diagnosis made later in the disease decreases the chances of survival, but detected early, the disease is curable. According to estimates from the Canadian and American Cancer Societies, 8900 men develop cancer of the testicles each year - 450 will die from the disease.

Comic Books Feature True Stories about Testicular Cancer

The research team explored comic books that already deliver education about HIV, hepatitis B, asthma, leukemia and H1N1 flu. They conducted interviews with 40 patients diagnosed with testicular cancer at Princess Margaret Hospital. From the data collected, Dr. Nyhof-Young determined educational needs and Brame went to work on the artwork. The end result was true to life stories from patients with cancer; delivered mainstream.

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The end result was two comic books -" A Courageous Journey" and "Cancer: Screening and Diagnosis"that so far have had positive feedback. A Courageous Journy highlights a young man's journey through cancer diagnosis and treatment. The comic also addresses psychological, social and financial issues encountered during treatment. The second is about how to perform a testicular self-exam and when to be worried if something is abnormal.

Professor Brame is also lead author of the study, "Ain't Nothing Comic About It! Educating Young Men about Testicular Cancer."

The researchers say surveys from students given educational comic books increased their knowledge but seemed to have no impact on whether they would or wouldn't self screen, something Brame says is one of the challenges for health care providers trying to connect with 15- to 25-year-old males.

The team is in the process of redeveloping the comic book resources. “We have to find ways to give educational materials a mainstream look, rather than using familiar hospital templates. This will increase audience receptivity to the messages. And with more literacy and education, a disease is less likely to run unchecked.” The comic books raised awareness of testicular cancer but whether more men will self screen for the disease that strikes young men in the prime of their life.

Ryerson University

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