Pints For Prostrates: One Man's Beer Battle Against Cancer

(CNN) -- Rick Lyke was diagnosed with prostate cancer when he was 47. His response was to set up "Pints for Prostates," an organization that uses the universal language of beer to reach men with its message about the importance of prostate cancer screening.

In 2008, at the insistence of a colleague with prostate cancer, Lyke had himself tested for illness, even though he had no health problems.

His doctor was initially reluctant to have him tested, as men under the age of 50 aren't considered to a high-risk group for prostate cancer, but tests came back positive and Lyke needed surgery to remove the cancer.

His surgeon said that if Lyke had waited until he was 50 to be screened, he would probably have only lived another two or three years.

"I'm doing great now," Lyke told CNN. "I have to get tested every six months for the next 15 years, but I really feel like I dodged a bullet."

Prostate cancer affects one in six men American men, with 27,000 Americans expected to die from the disease this year.

The American Cancer Society recommends that men above the age of 50 be screened for prostate cancer, but Lyke says other groups recommend that men should be screened once they reach their forties.

"I think it's a financial issue in a lot of cases rather than a health issue as to why that guideline is 50," he told CNN.

"The fact of the matter is not many men are going to have prostate cancer in their forties, but for those who do, if they wait until they're 50 to be tested, their numbers aren't going to look very good."

Lyke founded "Pints for Prostates" to spread the message about need for regular prostate health screenings. The organization travels to beer festivals and tries to engage with men in an informal way.

"Beer is a universal thing for men," Lyke told CNN.

"Where women get together and talk about health issues, men really don't, so we try to use an atmosphere like a pub, where guys are a little bit more relaxed, to talk about prostate cancer."

He says prostate cancer is a highly personal disease for men, in much the same way that breast cancer is for women. Treatment for prostate cancer can sometimes result in impotence.

"The pink ribbon campaign has really made it possible for women to talk about breast cancer, so we're trying to do the same thing for guys. They need permission to talk about it," said Lyke.

As well as setting up stalls at beer festivals and organizing events in pubs, "Pints for Prostates" has run adverts in magazines and Lyke estimates its message has reached about 30 million people.

A year after his own surgery, Lyke's first granddaughter was born. He is aware that by being screened for prostate cancer he has vastly improved his chances of seeing her grow up, and he hopes that by encouraging other men to be tested he will give them a similar opportunity.

He told CNN, "I'm hoping that there's a whole bunch of other guys out there who'll be able to experience the same thing [as me] -- see their families grow up and grow old."

-- Mark Tutton contributed to this report

The-CNN-Wire/Atlanta
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