Happy Movember! No, that’s not a typo. MOvember is celebrated in NOvember, and it’s a fun little twist on a Men’s Health Awareness Month. It has been going strong for 13 years! Movember is a global movement which men can “celebrate” and participate in through fundraising, and by clean-shaving on October 31st and then growing a moustache or a mo’, if you will…and by making positive choices about monitoring their health, and encouraging other men to do the same! It’s not just for men, either…Movember offers women plenty of ways to get involved, too! Let’s take a look at the three main areas of focus for Movember awareness, and what you can do to get the word out!
One of the main areas of men’s health which Movmeber focuses on is prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is a disease which can be deadly or devastating, and only men can get it, because only biological males have a prostate, which is a walnut-sized gland located between the bladder and the penis which is accessed through the rectum (see yellow area in the image below). Its job is to secrete fluid which nourishes & protects sperm. The prostate can even be a source of sexual pleasure, orgasm, and ejaculation through prostate massage…more on that later this month! While you don’t normally need to think much about your prostate, if you start to experience pain, urinary changes, or sexual dysfunction, it could potentially mean trouble (not always cancer; the prostate can become infected and inflamed in an illness called prostatitis as well) and you should get checked out by a doctor.
Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in men other than skin cancer, but only 1 in 41 men die from prostate cancer; it is very treatable if it is caught early. Many men with developing prostate cancer show no symptoms. If symptoms are present, they usually affect your urinary habits or sexual performance first, so if you are experiencing problems in these areas, talk to your doctor ASAP. Based on your age and other risk factors, your doctor will begin testing for prostate cancer non-invasively through a blood test at your annual physical (yes, you should absolutely be getting an annual physical with bloodwork!), then take further steps for testing if there is reason for concern. Click here for more information about prostate cancer directly from the Movember page, then learn how you can get involved. Money raised by the Movember organization goes to support awareness, education, and research into testing and treatment methods to keep making prostate cancer detectable and survivable!
Testicular cancer is another cancer that can only affect biological males, as it is a cancer of the testes or gonads – the male sex organ responsible for producing hormones and sperm. Testicular cancer is fairly rare, but it is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in young men. Since isn’t a factor here, men should be aware of the symptoms and check themselves starting in their 20s! Testicular cancer is also typically non-lethal: more than 95% of testicular cancer patients survive after proper treatment and go on to live a full, healthy life. Some testicular cancer survivors, unfortunately, experience long-term, life-changing side effects from treatment that can severely impact the physical appearance of their genitals, as well as their sex life, mood, and behavior.
The best line of defense for testicular cancer is regular self-exams following the steps in the image above. Just like women should perform monthly breast self-exams, gents, you should take a few minutes every month to feel your balls with a purpose! If you find anything that seems out of place, go see your doctor, who may refer you to a urologist for further testing. The Movember movement contributes important funding to testicular cancer research as well, researching ways to make it more easily diagnosable and treatable, and finding ways to lessen the impacts on a man’s quality of life (and sex life). Click here to read more about testicular cancer resources and research on the Movember website, including support groups for survivors.
Mental Health & Suicide Prevention:
The third and final tenet of the Movember trifecta may just be the most important one, because it can affect anyone and everyone. Mental health issues are common among both women and men, and there is unfortunately still a stigma around anyone seeking therapy, counseling, or other necessary treatments. That stigma is often felt even more strongly by men, who may be heavily impacted by the stress of everyday life, work, providing for themselves and their family, and past traumas that may have gone unresolved. People are only recently starting to raise boys in a way that breaks the cycle of “toxic masculinity”; unfortunately most generations of adult men were raised with some combination of “boys don’t cry”, “suck it up”, or “feelings are for sissies” messaging. That can be very detrimental for even well-adjusted guys trying to deal with their current emotions and struggles in a healthy way. There should be absolutely no shame or stigma associated with seeing a therapist, counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist, or with taking prescribed medications necessary for treating mental health issues. They are common, normal, and sadly getting worse and more prevalent due to lack of action.
This resistance to seeking mental help when help is needed has the unfortunate consequence of leading to suicide. Globally, we lose one man a minute to suicide. In the US alone, 3 out of 4 suicides are committed by men, and we lose more than 37,700 men a year to suicide. Chances are you personally know a man lost to suicide, and almost everyone can easily name a handful of male celebrities gone too soon due to suicide as well…it can affect everyone. Especially with the current pandemic situation, many men feel particularly burdened, and isolated from their usual social support networks. Changes like job loss or working from home, and dealing almost daily with illness, death, and fear has a profound effect on ALL men. Sadly, Veterans, healthcare workers, and first responders are especially feeling those challenges right now and need support more than ever. Movember’s 2020 movement is directing a ton of funding directly to these areas where it’s needed most…supporting and encouraging men to reach out to professionals in times of crisis and get the help they need before they do the unthinkable. Guys, reach out to your buddies, especially those you haven’t seen or talked to in a while…they might really need someone just to listen right now. Read more about how to get help or reach out to someone who needs help on the Movember website by clicking here. Men…use this month as a reminder to take care of yourselves and your friends…we all want you around!