Movember Men's Health Month

5 Nov 2018 12:26 PMTandem Health
Movember Men's Health Month

As many of our patients may be aware, November is a month where we like to support awareness and aim to improve men’s health, especially around the issues of mental health and suicide prevention, testicular cancer and prostate cancer.

Mental health and suicide are important issues for men across all ages. We need stronger community awareness to address and prevent the burden of poor mental health which costs society on all levels. Stronger awareness will also help lift the private burden all too often carried silently by those contemplating suicide. Many public campaigns such “Movember”, the “R U OK?” initiative and personal history sharing by public role models have done much to facilitate discussion around these issues, but there is so much more we can do in our consult rooms, our homes, our community centres, our sports fields and in our schools.

Signs of someone suffering poor mental health may include a change in their appetite and sleeping patterns or a noticeable disinterest in activities which they previously enjoyed.  Possibly a consequence of all of this is they may also be grumpy, anxious or withdrawn. Sadly this behaviour can lead to more social isolation which means the person suffering is even more alone as those around them withdraw. As colleagues, family members or friends, we need not feel powerless to help someone we love at times like this. Simply asking if they are okay may give them permission to speak about what’s on their mind or at least reassure them that someone cares. An important next step is simply to stay present and listen for their response. We don’t need to solve someone’s problems in order for them to feel better. Giving them a non-judgemental space alone is often enough to ease some of their burden. From that point, they can then take the next step towards healing, perhaps it's another cuppa on the couch to give them more space to open up, or it's an invite to do something outdoors together, or perhaps it is an encouragement to seek support formally though their GP who can assess where they are at and provide further support and information. These simple steps can and do make a difference. We really are in this together no matter what our role in society – mental health is everyone’s business!

Fortunately testicular cancer is rare – constituting only 1% of male cancers - but both younger and older men should be aware of it. It is however the most common malignancy for men aged 15-35 years. Risk factors include history of an undescended testis, previous testicular cancer and a family history of the disease. It may present with a painful or non-painful lump in the testis, testicular firmness or scrotal heaviness. Currently, we do not screen for the disease but would encourage those men with a history of undescended testes or previous testicular cancer to self examine monthly.

Prostate Cancer is the second most common cancer in men worldwide with an overall survival rate of 98% at five years. Risk increases with age and a family history of a close family relative diagnosed under 65 years of age. Whilst screening for prostate cancer using a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test is possible, it is generally discouraged because many, many prostate cancers are slow growing and would not cause harm to the man, but the testing and treatment process for such may well do! So deciding whether it is appropriate for you to be screened is a personal decision based on its risks and benefits. There is no simple right or wrong answer.

We are offering a bulk billed men’s health screen during the month of November to all men after completing an initial questionnaire to help assess your risks. Why not take advantage of this and do something for yourself, we’d be delighted to have a chat about your health – it’s the most important asset you have!

Contribution by Dr Kelly-Anne Garnier.