It’s that time of year again, when thousands of usually clean-shaven men sprout moustaches. It might make us feel like we’ve stepped back into a 1970s timewarp, but it’s worth it when you consider the charity even raised £8 million last year for prostrate and testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention. We spoke to Professor Clare Turnbull, senior researcher at the Institute of Cancer Research and Movember Ambassador, about how we can care for the men in our lives this month…
Testicular cancer is unusual: while the majority of cancers are most common in men in their 60s and 70s, the average age of diagnosis for testicular cancer is 32.
Each year, 2,300 British blokes are diagnosed with testicular cancer, but the good news is there’s a 98% survival rate.
‘There’s a big problem with men not going to the doctor, even when they find a mass in their testes,’ says Professor Turnbull. ‘Over the years, there’s been much normalisation of breast cancer symptoms, and that may be, in part, why women are more willing to go to their GP as soon as they notice any changes.’
What you can do
‘Much like women examining their breasts each month, men should become familiar with their own bodies,’ says Professor Turnbull.
● ‘The best place for an examination is in the bath or shower; because the warm water will relax the scrotum. He should compare one side to the other, rolling each one between his fingers, getting to know what his testes feel like normally, and use the other side as the yardstick for comparison.’ Encourage him to do a monthly self-examination.
If there are any changes, lumps or pain when he self-examines, he should go to his GP right away.
…is the most common cancer in men, with more than 47,000 new cases diagnosed in Britain each year.
Three quarters of men diagnosed are over 65 years old, and there’s an 83% survival rate. Prostate cancer can often be slow growing and may never show any symptoms.
● Men should look out for changes in their bathroom habits, such as needing to urinate more frequently, especially at night; a weak or interrupted flow of urine; or a painful sensation when peeing. There may also be problems in the bedroom, such as difficulty in getting an erection and painful ejaculation.
What you can do
Make sure any older men in your life see their GP as soon as they have any symptoms. In many cases, it will be a case of ‘watchful waiting’, which means keeping an eye on the symptoms when a cancer has been deemed to be ‘slow-growing’ with the aim of avoiding treatment where possible. Doctors may also instigate ‘active surveillance’, which will involve a rectal exam and blood tests every six months. ‘Some forms of treatment can be very aggressive, and it’s important to weigh up your options,’ says Professor Turnbull. ‘A prostatectomy or radical radiotherapy are both very effective, but can lead to incontinence and impotence.’
● ‘Movember have communities of men who have been through different treatments, so can talk through what to expect.’ But just because doctors choose not to treat many prostate cancer cases, it doesn’t mean men can afford to be relaxed about going to the GP – the disease still kills more than 11,000 men a year, and only a qualified professional can advise you properly.
FACT: 11,000 British men die from prostate cancer each year.
Seventy-five percent of UK suicides are men. In fact, men aged between 20-49 are more likely to die from suicide than anything else.
It’s a worrying epidemic, and the figures for male suicide are at the highest they’ve been for 35 years.
Surprisingly, 75% of those who take their own lives have never been diagnosed with a mental health problem. When it comes to suicide attempts, men are much more likely to act compulsively, have alcohol in their system, and choose more violent methods.
What you can do
Women are often better at maintaining friendships, building in structures of support into their lives, and find it easier to talk about their problems if they’re feeling low. ‘We need to have more direct conversations with men when they are down,’ says Professor Turnbull. ‘There are questions that don’t come naturally, like, “Do you feel depressed?” Sometimes the phrasing of a question is important: someone might say no if you ask if they’re having suicidal thoughts, but say yes if you ask, “Do you feel that your life is not worth living?”’
● If a man in your life seems depressed, try to take him to the GP as soon as possible, and go along for support. Make sure he is going out and seeing friends, and watch out for tell-tale signs of depression, like losing interest in things he used to enjoy. The Movember Foundation runs some fantastic get-togethers where blokes can go and chat through their mental health concerns over bread making or boxing.
FACT: 1 in 8 British men have experienced a mental health problem.
Concerned about mental health? Call the Samaritans free any time, from any phone on 116 123.
The Movember Foundation is the leading charity dedicated to changing the face of men’s health in the UK and around the world. You can find ways to support and donate here.