Movember: raising awareness of male health

Every November, men up and down the country – and indeed across the world – grow moustaches to raise awareness of the men’s health campaign Movember.

Men die an average six years younger than women, claims the Movember Foundation. So Movember was established to inform more people about three key health problems that can shorten men’s lives, namely prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health problems (including suicide).

Here are some of the things you should know:

Prostate cancer The most commonly diagnosed cancer in men in the UK, prostate cancer is also the second most common cancer in the country, according to Cancer Research UK. However, early detection is vital. If prostate cancer is found early, you have a 98 percent chance of surviving beyond five years. But if it’s detected late, the survival rate plummets to below 26 percent.

Not everyone experiences any symptoms, but if you do they may include things like frequent urination (especially at night), weak or interrupted urine flow and other urination difficulties, erection difficulties or blood in your urine or semen.

Take action Your risk of developing prostate cancer increases as you get older – though that doesn’t mean only older men are affected. According to the Movember Foundation, men who are 50 years old should be talking to their GPs about prostate cancer testing. If you’re black or you have a close male relative who has or had prostate cancer, you should be tested when you’re 45.

The most common method of testing for prostate cancer checks the level of a substance called prostate specific antigen (PSA) in your blood and involves a simple blood test.

Testicular cancer Whereas prostate cancer becomes more likely as you get older, testicular cancer can strike while you’re young. It’s the 16th most common cancer in men in this country. However almost half of cases each year are diagnosed in men aged 35 or younger, says Cancer Research UK.

If you had undescended testes at birth or a close male relative who has or had testicular cancer, your risk may be higher than average. Other things that increase your risk include infertility problems, smoking and certain medical conditions such as HIV/AIDS. The good news is it’s a highly treatable cancer, especially if you catch it early.

Take action Besides giving up smoking, examining your testicles on a regular basis is essential if you want to spot any problems as quickly as possible. Just look out for one or more of the following – and if you find anything, see your GP:

  • A hard lump on the testicle
  • A swollen or enlarged testicle
  • A testicle that’s feels firmer than usual
  • Pain or discomfort in a testicle or the scrotum
  • A difference between one testicle and the other that’s not normal for you

There’s a handy guide that shows how to check yourself here.

Mental health One in eight men in the UK has experienced a mental health problem, says the Movember Foundation, and three out of four suicides are men. The problem is there’s no way to tell someone is struggling with their mental health just by looking at them. Some of the things you could look out for, however, include constant worrying, feeling down and unable to enjoy anything, being more withdrawn than usual and sleep difficulties.

Take action If you’re finding it tough going for any reason, don’t bottle up your feelings –talk to someone about what you’re experiencing. Staying active and eating healthily can also help, even if you don’t feel like exercising or eating. And try not to use alcohol or drugs to make yourself feel better, as they will only make you feel more down in the long run. If you try these things but you don’t start feeling better, it may be time to get help from your GP.

On the other hand if someone you know isn’t doing too well, ask them how they’re doing. Try to stay in touch with them more often, and make sure they know you’re there for them if they need anything.

For more information about Movember, including what you can do to help raise awareness of these male health issues, visit uk.movember.com.