By now you’ve probably heard of the Movember Moment, where each November, men around the world collectively grow a moustache to shine a spotlight on the importance of men’s health. Over the last few years, the ‘Movember Mo’ has risen to become the male equivalent of the breast cancer pink ribbon, reminding men that an annual check-up could save their life, or that of someone they love.
Since 2003, the campaign has funded more than 1,250 men’s health projects around the world. These projects have sought to educate millions of men and women on male-specific diseases that often go undiscussed, such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health.
But what are these diseases? What do they entail and what can men do to stay one step ahead when it comes to dealing with these illnesses?
Prostate cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the prostate, a small walnut-shaped gland in men that produces seminal fluid. It is the most common cancer affecting South African men. There are often no symptoms experienced during the early stages of prostate cancer, which is why screening is incredibly important for early detection.
Men who do experience symptoms may notice:
- A need to urinate frequently, especially at night
- Difficulty starting urination or holding back urine
- Weak or interrupted flow of urine
- Painful or burning urination
- Difficulty in having an erection
- Painful ejaculation
- Blood in urine or semen
- Frequent pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs
If detected early, the disease is treatable with a 98% chance of survival beyond 5 years. While the risk of developing prostate cancer increases with age, specifically for men 45 and over, it can also affect younger men. And if you have a brother or father with prostate cancer in their history, it is advisable to have a check-up as soon as possible.
Testicular cancer is cancer that develops in the testicles, usually manifesting as a lump in the scrotum, the loose sack of skin behind the penis. Men can get cancer in one or both testicles. Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in men under the age of 40 and has a higher chance of developing in men with abnormal testicle development, an undescended testicle or a family history of the cancer.
Signs and symptoms of testicular cancer 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
- Pain or discomfort in a testicle or the scrotum
- Enlargement or tenderness of the breasts
- Back pain
At greater than 95%, the odds of survival for men is a fantastic statistic, but this is dependent on seeking medical advice, early detection testing and treatment. Men should consult a doctor if they detect any pain, swelling or lumps in their testicles and groin area, especially if these signs and symptoms last longer than two weeks.
Mental health refers to the cognitive, behavioural and emotional well-being of people. It is all about how we think, feel and behave. Negative feelings of self and life can lead to mental disorders such as depression, anxiety disorders and personality disorders. Declining mental health in men is a current global concern, responsible for 75% of male suicides in South Africa alone.
Examples of signs and symptoms include:
- Depressed thoughts
- Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate
- Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt
- Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
- Withdrawal from friends and activities
- Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping
- Inability to cope with daily problems or stress
- Problems with alcohol or drugs
- Suicidal thoughts
Differentiating poor mental health from sporadic negative feelings isn’t always easy. In this case, the persistence of negative thoughts is the first sign of a potential mental health disorder, in which case, seeking out a psychologist or mental health professional for diagnosis is essential for monitoring and the correct treatment.
At Medshield Medical Scheme, the health of all our members is, and always will be, of utmost importance. We hope that men will translate the knowledge we’ve shared into action and be proactive towards their future well-being. This is why Movember exists and why being aware of the key health issues in men matters.