Movember, men’s health and why this is a tricky issue - Medshield

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Movember, men’s health and why this is a tricky issue

Posted in Medshield Wellness   |   November 13th, 2019

The Movember movement was established in 2003 to encourage men to grow their moustaches in November to bring awareness to men’s health issues.

Initially, the initiative focused on prostate cancer, but it has grown to become a great vehicle to focus on men’s physical and mental health.

Medshield’s in-house doctor Dr Rufaro Machiri believes information is key when it comes to men taking care of their health this month – and throughout the year – and that it is crucial to remove the social stigmas that still persist when it comes to health screenings and seeking help.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men globally and in South Africa, and National Cancer Registry figures show that one in 19 men face the risk of prostate cancer in their lifetime.

The risk factors for this disease include:

  • Age
  • Family history
  • Genetic factors
  • Race
  • Lifestyle
  • Dietary habits

Physical symptoms of prostate cancer to look out for include:

  • Weak urine flow or struggling to empty the bladder
  • Frequent urination, especially at night
  • Blood in the urine or seminal fluid
  • Sudden erectile dysfunction
  • An enlarged prostate, causing discomfort or pain when sitting

Be aware that some of these symptoms may be caused by other conditions, so getting tested is important to get a definitive diagnosis.

What makes prostate cancer particularly hard to diagnose is the fact that there are no symptoms in the early stages. This is why screening is vital.

There are two types of initial tests for prostate cancer:

  • The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test
  • Digital rectal examination (DRE)

One of the hurdles to overcome is that digital examination is still the big elephant in the room for many, who find talking about or booking the test an awkward issue, to be discussed in hushed tones. The only way to end this is for men to become more vocal about it and to treat this like any other health issue that must be taken seriously.

While far less common than prostate cancer, men should also be aware of the risk of testicular cancer (the lifetime risk in South Africa is around 1 in 1 798, according to the National Cancer Registry). The good news is that his type of cancer is highly treatable, depending on the type and stage.

According to patient health information provided by the Mayo Clinic in the US, these are the risk factors:

  • Undescended testicle (cryptorchidism)
  • Conditions that cause testicles to develop abnormally, such as Klinefelter syndrome
  • Family history
  • Age – testicular cancer can occur at any age but it mostly affects teenagers and younger men
  • Race – the illness is more common in white men than in black men

The symptoms include:

  • Pain or discomfort in the testicle or scrotum
  • A lump or enlargement of the testicle
  • A dull pain in the groin or abdomen
  • In some cases, back pain and tenderness of the breasts

Good health also includes mental well-being

With statistics showing that, globally, 60 men take their own lives every hour, the Movember initiative also shines the spotlight on this serious issue.

Unfortunately, there are still societal taboos around dealing with men’s mental health issues. “Part of the stigma that exists about mental health for men is that they tend to have greater difficulty talking about their own struggles than women do,” says Dr Machiri.

“There are still some outdated stereotypes about men as a source of strength, dominating positions of power, being the hunter-gatherer, the idea that strong and silent is alluring or attractive, and the ‘show-no-weakness’ bravado of heroes in our media.

“In many of these macho scenarios, there is little room for acknowledging poor mental health. The men who are looked up to in society – such as the famous, wealthy, successful and powerful – are not always ready to admit their struggles in public and that can leave the average bloke feeling uncertain about speaking out,” he adds.

The tide is turning, however, and men are encouraged to seek help if they need it.

Prevention is still better than cure, and eating a well-balanced diet and taking regular exercise (30 minutes, several days of the week) go a long way towards general good health.

When it comes to mental health, Dr Machiri suggests talking to someone you trust; considering why you find seeking help uncomfortable and trying to change these beliefs; finding a support group; researching mental health; and spending more time with loved ones.

Alan Moses reports in an article published on WebMD that men tend to avoid seeking the healthcare they need, and may also downplay their symptoms or the seriousness of their illness, because of the societal conditioning to appear tough. This results in men being more likely to die at a younger age than women.

Movember tackles this issue directly, aiming to reduce the incidence of men dying prematurely by 25%.

Men’s health is important. Human beings are vulnerable to all types of threats and illnesses, and in everybody’s life there comes a time when support and healthcare services are needed.

Social stigma only leads to harm. This can – and must – be prevented, so that men are free to take care of their physical and mental health without any barriers.


DISCLAIMER: The information on this blog post is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms or need health advice, please consult a healthcare professional.

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