By Dr Alexandra Phelan
November is officially Movember, the month of the moustache and the campaign to raise money and awareness of the conditions that affect men the most – prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and suicide.
There are over 2,000 new cases of testicular cancer each year in the UK, making it relatively rare. However since the late 1970’s the rates of testicular cancer have increased by over 90%. It’s most likely to affect men between the ages of 15 to 49.
Testicular cancer is most commonly characterised by a painless lump or swelling in one of the testicles; the lump can be pea-sized or larger. Other symptoms to watch out for include a dull ache and/or a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum.
Regularly checking your scrotum, testicles and penis is important, so you know what feels normal to you. If you have any of the above symptoms, or notice anything different in this area, see your GP as soon as possible.
One in eight men in the UK will be diagnosed with prostate cancer within their lifetime. The survival rate for prostate cancer has consistently improved and has tripled over the last 40 years.
Symptoms include an increased need to urinate, feeling like you haven’t fully emptied your bladder, or straining when urinating. These symptoms can indicate that your prostate is enlarged and is pressing on the tube that carries urine from your bladder to your penis.
If you do have these symptoms, see your GP but don’t worry, they could equally be caused by other prostate effecting conditions, such as benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH).
Studies are beginning to show that being a healthy weight and doing regular exercise can lower the risk of prostate cancer.
Mental health and suicide
Studies suggest that as many as one in eight men in the UK has experienced a mental health problem at some point. In 2014 male suicide accounted for 76% of all suicides and was the single largest cause of death in men under 45 in the UK – on average 13 men a day take their life in the UK.
Many things can take a serious toll on mental health – such as problems at work, financial issues, or a relationship breakdown. Having a strong support network and talking about the hard things is paramount, it helps you to stay mentally healthy and cope with the everyday stress of life.
Signs of poor mental health may include drinking more, isolating yourself, being irritable, feeling tearful/hopeless or becoming aggressive.
Your GP can refer you to mental health services in your area and can discuss treatment options. If you need to talk, call the Samaritans on 116 123. If you feel your life is in danger, ring 999 or go directly to the emergency services.
It’s good to talk
Many men feel like they have to put on a brave face and may not like to seek help. Across the UK men visit their GP an average of 20% less than women, especially men between the age of 16-44. Whether it’s talking to your doctor about a lump or asking a friend to listen when you’re distressed, talking can be lifesaving.
Dr Alexandra Phelan is a working NHS GP and member of the Pharmacy2U Online Doctor service.
Find out more about Movember here.