The month formerly known as November is finally upon us. The stereotypes of masculinity and invincibility amongst the male gender has been around for centuries, and it’s often commented on how little men will talk about their health with each other or anyone else.
Back in 2003, a group of male friends in a pub decided to try and bring back the now unfashionable moustache, and didn’t shave their upper lip for the whole of November. They were pleasantly surprised by the amount of conversation and remarks they received about their facial hair, and decided that this could be used to open up conversations about men’s health. The following year they raised money whilst they grew their moustaches in November, and every time someone mentioned it, they would tell them they were doing it in aid of prostate cancer, sparking conversations on the subject. They donated the money raised to the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia (PCFA) to help support men’s health.
11 years on and Movember has grown bigger and bigger each year, helping men everywhere to talk about their health and know the symptoms of conditions that may affect them. The association now have four main health areas on which they focus, all of them with a strong emphasis on men’s health.
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men worldwide, and the most common in the UK. It’s more common in black men, and the risk gets higher for all men as they get older, with most cases in over 50s. Research and debate over whether you should be screened for prostate cancer is conflicting, as there is little evidence to show it helps, and the screening process can be unreliable. Because of that, it’s so important for you to know your symptoms, which are sometimes hard to spot, and tell your doctor if you notice any of them, then more specific tests can take place. The main symptoms for prostate cancer are:
- needing to urinate more frequently, often during the night
- needing to rush to the toilet
- difficulty in starting to pee (hesitancy)
- straining or taking a long time while urinating
- feeling that your bladder has not emptied fully
- blood in urine
- erectile dysfunction
- Pain in the hips, back (spine), chest (ribs), or other areas, from cancer spread to bones
We actually wrote a blogpost on testicular pain a couple of weeks back, which you can read here. There’s also a great video here of how Movember can help those with testicular cancer, but also how those suffering with testicular cancer can help others through Movember.
The survival rate for testicular cancer is actually extremely good, with a 95% chance of full recovery when diagnosed soon enough. That lessens as time goes on, so if you spot anything unusual, get it checked out. Testicular cancer usually starts on one side of the testicles and symptoms include:
- A lump or enlargement in either testicle
- A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
- A dull ache in the abdomen or groin
- A sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum (a hydrocele)
- Pain or discomfort in a testicle or the scrotum
- Enlargement or tenderness of the breasts
- Back pain
There are some truly shocking statistics when it comes to men and mental health. 78% of suicides are men - globally a man dies every minute from suicide. However, only 12.5% of men in UK were diagnosed with a common mental illness in this survey, supporting the view that men just don’t talk about their mental health. The stigma of mental health is an issue across all genders, races, and countries, but it is perhaps most prevalent with men. This really is what Movember is all about - in growing a moustache you create a talking point, and a way in to start a discussion about men’s health and wellbeing. The Movember Foundation have actually commissioned a report on the ways we can promote mental health and wellbeing, early intervention and stigma reduction, and get boys and men talking about their mental health issues. You can read the full report here, but there were interesting findings, such as the enviroment in which an intervention, or even a conversation, about a boy or man's mental health takes place can have a huge impact on the outcome.
Physical inactivity and obesity is a big deal in the US and the UK at the minute, so it’s no surprise that Movember are branching out to encourage men to get active and combat heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis and kidney disease. In turn getting active also helps maintain a healthy mind, so they’re tackling mental health at the same time. Doing a little physical activity every day has even been shown to have an impact on other positive life decisions such as cutting down on drinking, quitting smoking or eating a more balanced diet. For this year’s Movember, the association are particularly pushing their new ‘MOVE’ scheme, which is simple: every day of November, you have to do a MOVE. This can be taking a walk to work, going for a swim, or something as simple as skipping in your back garden. The idea is to challenge yourself a little bit each day to get active and get fit.
So all this month, if you see a man sporting a moustache (and only a moustache - beards are forbidden), chances are he’s doing it for Movember. But remember, the most important thing is that it allows men everywhere to talk about their health, be it prostate, testicular, mental or physical. So talk to him! And help raise awareness everywhere.