Tackling the Taboo Topic of Testicular Cancer: A Brief History
Article by Kevin Nadrowski & Mary Grace Furtney
You might be wondering why we would choose to tackle the taboo topic of testicular cancer. Well…here are the answers that you have been waiting for!
The idea for this project began in the spring of 2009, when five Canisius College students had to decide on a topic to research for a Persuasion class taught by Dr. Melissa Wanzer. The students were Elyse Krezmien, Sara LaBelle, Meagan Tremblay, David Jackson and Ja’Nay Carswell.
Elyse Krezmien was the first to introduce the idea of working on a testicular cancer campaign. Elyse told us that she suggested the topic because her family had a history of cancer and breast cancer in particular. She said that she was especially interested in the enormous difference in support between women/men afflicted with breast cancer and men suffering from testicular cancer. In her mind, they are comparable diseases yet there is almost no mention of testicular cancer in the public realm.
In addition, Dr. Melissa Wanzer indicated that she had a close friend that was diagnosed with the disease during college.
Even though the group was set on the idea for the campaign, there was still some apprehension considering the sensitivity of the topic.
Despite the apprehension, the team decided to run full throttle with the campaign. They started thinking of ways to promote awareness of the disease and decided that the best way to reach the target population, males between the ages of 15-40, would be to use humor. When the group started interviewing young males about testicular cancer they found that males were generally uncomfortable with using the word “testicle.”
They concluded that men would not be very responsive to a campaign that stressed the importance of testicular self-exams, when they do not really want to talk about “those parts” anyway. So, the name of the campaign became Check Yo Nutz. The group used a humorous message to get men thinking about problems that could exist “down there” and affect the rest of their lives.
Krezmien, LaBelle, Tremblay, Jackson and Carswell were at the forefront of this campaign. They worked hard to show that their families, friends and fellow classmates were generally uninformed about the disease. The more they learned about how little people knew about this type of cancer, the more motivated they became to design the campaign.
When the group presented their project (proudly wearing “Sammy the Squirrel” t-shirts) the class was blown away by the powerful presentation! Students were surprised to learn how many people were unaware of this highly curable disease. David Jackson is credited for creating “Sammy” the squirrel. The campaign’s “spokes-squirrel” would continue to focus on “nutz” and encourage men to self-check.
Dr. Wanzer believed that the idea was so creative and innovative that she introduced the students’ project to Roswell Park Cancer Institute’s Marketing Department. Later, Labelle presented the findings from the project to a group of administrators and doctors at Roswell Park. After the successful completion of this presentation, Roswell Park was on board to collaboratively develop this campaign.
Our campaign is now up and rolling. Dr. Wanzer and Dr. Catherine Foster, Canisius College’s Public Relations professor, decided to offer a class where the students’ sole purpose was to work on the Check Yo Nutz campaign. The class is made up of students in majors like Psychology, Marketing, Digital Media Arts and Biology as well as Communication Studies. While the class is comprised of a diverse student body, we are united in one common goal: to increase awareness of testicular cancer!
The class has specific, yet realistic goals for this campaign:
- We want to make sure that young men between the ages of 15 and 40 know that they are at risk for TC and know the signs and symptoms of TC.
- Also, we want to provide accurate instructions on how to perform a testicular cancer self-exam (TSE).
- Finally, we want to reduce the stigma that comes along with testicular cancer. We WANT people to talk about this disease so that more men are aware of it.
Dr. Foster and Dr. Wanzer divided the class into six different groups: web, traditional media, social media, research, events and fundraising. The groups were given specific tasks and set out to work on their portions of the campaign. However, our professors urged groups to help each other out, and to share ideas.
To design and implement a highly effective health communication campaign, we are integrating a number of important guidelines found in The Pink Book published by The National Cancer Institute (cancer.gov). This book shows health promoters how to successfully plan, develop and implement a successful health communication campaign.
Through our collaboration with Roswell Park Cancer Institute we have been able to design accurate and innovative campaign materials. These materials include a website, brochure, shower hanger, surveys given to over 600 Canisius College students, a Facebook and Twitter page, and a video. We are also planning three events during April to raise testicular cancer awareness on the Canisius College campus. With help from Roswell Park Cancer Institute and our local business sponsors we are certain that our campaign will be successful! Our hope is that other colleges and universities will realize the importance of spreading testicular cancer awareness. Look around our site and maybe learn something you didn’t know. And, most importantly, don’t forget to Check Yo Nutz or encourage males 15-40 to do so!