No-Shave November: Awareness for Men’s Health
Perhaps you’ve noticed more men sporting mustaches and facial hair this month. Or maybe you’ve heard of No-Shave November and Movember and wondered what all the fuss was about. Movember and No-Shave November are two movements dedicated to raising awareness for some of the most common health challenges faced by men: prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental illness.
The concept behind these movements is to go shave-free for the entire month of November (women can participate, too!). Then, at the end of the month, you donate the money you would have spent on shaving towards organizations that educate about cancer and suicide prevention, save lives, and aid those fighting these battles.
Being informed about the symptoms, risk factors, and available tests can empower you to lead a healthier life, or to help a man in your life. In the spirit of raising awareness for men’s health during the month of November, we’ve compiled a list of what you need to know about some of the most prevalent health concerns in men.
What do I need to know about prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men (after skin cancer). More than 2 million men in the USA count themselves as prostate cancer survivors. One particularly worrying aspect of the disease is that many prostate cancers develop without symptoms in the early stages. Prostate cancer is more likely to be curable when found early, so being aware of the symptoms and knowing whether you should be tested are important for promoting early detection.
1. Knowing the Symptoms Promotes Early Detection
Not everyone experiences symptoms of prostate cancer. Many times, signs of prostate cancer are first detected by a doctor during a routine check-up. Some men, however, will experience changes in urinary or sexual function that might indicate the presence of prostate cancer. It is important to be aware of all possible signs and symptoms of prostate cancer, so that you can speak with your doctor right away if you notice any changes. The American Cancer Society also recommends an annual physical with your primary care physician.
2. It’s Important to Understand Your Risk Factors
Knowing your risk factors for prostate cancer and talking about them with your doctor can help you make more informed lifestyle and health care choices. Risk factors for developing prostate cancer include age, family history, and ethnicity. Learning more about prostate cancer risk factors and discussing them with your doctor at your annual physical exam can help with early detection.
3. Being Proactive about Your Testing Options is Critical
The purpose of testing is to detect prostate cancer at its earliest stages, before the disease progresses. There are two common tests for initial detection, a digital rectal exam and a PSA blood test. The American Cancer Society recommends that men learn as much as they can about their prostate cancer screening options and make an informed decision with their primary care physician about whether to be tested for prostate cancer, beginning at age 50. However, other guidelines point to getting tested as early as age 40. In general, all men should work with their doctor to create a proactive prostate health plan that is right for them.
What do I need to know about testicular cancer?
Testicular cancer occurs most commonly in younger men, with almost half the cases occurring in those between ages 15 and 35. The rate of men diagnosed with testicular cancer has doubled in the last 50 years, but luckily, it is a highly treatable cancer and can be effectively treated, and often cured, if diagnosed and treated early. Early detection and knowing the risks are key.
1. You Play a Role in Early Detection
Self-exams can play an important role in early detection of testicular cancer. The most common method of early detection is performing a monthly self-exam. Some doctors recommend that all men examine their testicles monthly after puberty. If you have certain risk factors that increase your chance of developing testicular cancer, you should consider monthly self-exams and talk about it with your doctor.
2. It’s Important to Understand Your Risk Factors
Just as with prostate cancer, understanding your risk factors for developing testicular cancer is important for early detection. Consult a comprehensive list of risk factors, such as this one, and be sure to talk to your primary care physician if you have any risk factors. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will develop testicular cancer, but it could indicate that you need to be more vigilant and aware.
3. What do I need to know about men’s mental health?
Around 1 in 4 adults in the United States will experience a mental health problem in a given year. Difficult things happen in life, such as difficulties with work, finances, relationships, family responsibilities, or a significant setback. These challenges can take a toll on one’s mental health if left unchecked.
The highest rate of depression is in men ages 40-59. Rather than seek help, men are more likely to tough it out and struggle alone. Untreated mental health conditions can carry a high risk for suicide among men.
Some ways to look after your mental health:
- Do more of the things that you enjoy and help you to de-stress
- Spend time with friends and loved ones
- Talk to someone about what you’re going through, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed
Supporting a friend or loved one:
Talking, listening, and being there for someone can be lifesaving. If you know someone is going through a difficult time, ask how they’re doing and be prepared to listen. You can also consult these tips for talking about mental health with a friend, family member, health professional, or support service.
Be sure to seek immediate assistance if you think your friend or family member is in danger of harming themselves. You can call a local San Diego crisis line or the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1.800.273.8255.
4. How can I advocate for men’s health?
If you are worried about a friend or loved one and their risk factors for cancer or mental illness, here are some ways to be an advocate for men’s health:
- Talk with them about early detection: the symptoms, risk factors, and testing options for testicular and prostate cancer.
- Share this article with them, or read it together.
- An annual physical exam with a primary care physician is often crucial to early detection. Help your loved one by reminding them to schedule an annual physical, if they don’t already have it on the calendar.
- If you or someone you know are emotionally distressed or in crisis, the most important first step is to talk; begin a conversation with a friend, family member, health professional, or support service.
- Seek immediate assistance if you think someone is in danger of harming themselves. You can call a local San Diego crisis line or the National Suicide Prevention Line.