Dr Rosie Carey explains what lurks behind the symbolic moustache
Although you may be forgiven for thinking that facial hair fashions from the 70’s have made a revival, they haven’t. The retro-looking moustaches you are seeing on men at the moment are in response to ‘Movember’.
The word Movember is an amalgamation of ‘November’ and ‘moustache’: a neat little trick to raise awareness during November of men’s health issues, particularly prostate cancer, testicular cancer and depression.
These are all major men’s health issues, but for the purposes of this article, I will focus on testicular and prostate cancer only.
Prostate cancer is one of the most commonly occurring cancers in men and, although it is often a very slow-growing and non-aggressive cancer, it can spread if left untreated.
Perhaps the most important piece of information to know about prostate cancer is that it can be treated if it is caught early enough. This makes screening for prostate cancer essential.
Ideally, screening should start from the age of 40 with an annual PSA (blood test for prostate specific antigen). Regular annual measurement of PSA also allows your doctor to follow the trend of your PSA levels. Digital rectal exam can also form part of screening, especially if you have any worrying symptoms.
Symptoms of prostate cancer can include difficulty urinating, decreased force in urine stream, pain in the pelvic area and erectile dysfunction. There can be an overlap with symptoms of prostate cancer and those of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) as well as prostatitis, so don’t panic if you recognise any of the symptoms, but do make sure you see your GP or Urologist for a check-up to make sure that there is not a malignant cause to what you are experiencing.
There are several risk factors for prostate cancer.
- Age is the most significant risk factor, with increased age leading to increased risk.
-Family history of prostate cancer and a family history of certain breast cancers also increases your risk of prostate cancer.
The most modifiable risk factor for prostate cancer (i.e. the one that you can actually do something about) is obesity. Obese men diagnosed with prostate cancer are more likely to have advanced disease that is more aggressive and more difficult to treat.
Management of prostate cancer depends on how advanced the cancer is and can range from simple surveillance in very low-risk cases, to local radiotherapy, to surgery and radical radiotherapy. As with all cancers, earlier detection means easier management and usually a better outcome.
Testicular cancer is far rarer than prostate cancer and is most common in men aged 15-35. Although it has a bad name, testicular cancer is very treatable, even when it has spread beyond the testis.
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 and pain or discomfort in a testicle or the scrotum.
If you experience any of these symptoms you should see your GP or urologist, especially if the symptoms last for longer than 2 weeks.
There are some risk factors for testicular cancer.
During normal prenatal development, the testes descend from the abdomen into the scrotum. In certain cases this doesn’t happen and men who have an undescended testis have an increased risk of testicular cancer even if they have had surgery to correct the problem.
A family history of testicular cancer increases risk and testicular cancer is more common in white than black men.
There is no way to prevent testicular cancer but regular self-examination can lead to earlier detection.
Diagnosis is made with a combination of ultrasound, blood tests and possibly surgery. Management depends on the type of cancer and what stage it is, as well as your general health.
Let the moustaches around you in Movember act as a reminder to get yourself screened because the key to combatting cancer is early diagnosis.