The ‘Movember’ mystery of men’s health


November or movember, you say? For a vast number of the populace movember’s significance in the calendar is still a mystery. For those mystified individuals, movember came to life 14 years ago in 2003, created by a few friends over a beer in Melbourne, Australia.

You might think, how sloshed were they?! The truth of the matter is they were sober enough to formulate a movement that would raise awareness on men’s health globally.

Movember has garnered massive attention since its birth. Its primary purpose is to grow awareness on prostate cancer, testicular cancer and male depression leading to suicide; the lesser spoken about issues at the time, and to a great extent even today!

It has encouraged men far and beyond to be cautious of their health, get annual checkups, alert themselves of family history of cancer, to not be apprehensive on speaking about mental distress, to follow a healthy regime, and thus stay in the pink of health.

To engage more people, raise funds and make this idea fun along the way, men start the month of November with a cleanly-shaven face then grow and groom a moustache! There’re some who go all out and grow beards, too. It’s unquestionably a glorious time for those who love their facial hair, and like flaunting it as well. Since women dislike being left out, they also show their support for the men in their life to be hale and hearty by being physically active or by hosting a fundraiser.

Prostate Cancer

Cancer is an enigma that scientists are trying hard to solve. Since its origin is still fuzzy, preventable actions are limited. All we know is that a few cells in our body go lunatic and start dividing abnormally. Prostate cancer occurs only in men, since the prostate is a gland found only in the male reproductive system. It is more common in the elderly, over 50.

Among the categories of cancer, unexpectedly prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of death in men after skin cancer. We have several glands in our body producing various substances like hormones for competent bodily activities. The prostate is a walnut-shaped gland placed below the bladder, hence the name prostate. It churns out a fluid that carries semen and encircles the urethra (the tube men pee/ejaculate through).

Prostate cancer can be localised or advanced, and can be easily treatable when identified at a localised stage. The horror bells go off when it advances to other organs. Prostate cancer deceitfully shows the symptoms when it is in the advanced stages. For that reason, one must be watchful of one’s own body and get regular medical examinations done to protect oneself. However, one shouldn’t succumb to paranoia, as there’s a fine line between being watchful and being paranoid -and stress hormones have never done any good!

Signs to look out for with prostate cancer are: trouble urinating or ejaculating, frequent urination, blood in semen, bone-pain, uneasiness in pelvic area, trouble in keeping erection, weak flow of urine or trickling urine once you’re done. A few of these indicators may also arise due to some other illnesses like diabetes, arthritis or a heart problem. Nonetheless, it’s best to get yourself examined to know the nature of the disease you’re dealing with.

Factors contributing to prostate cancer are: old age, obesity, family history of prostate cancer. Astonishingly, according to the Mayo Clinic, those with a family history of breast cancer are at a higher risk of prostate cancer. Certain tests that can help in uncovering prostate cancer are: digital rectal exam, prostate-specific antigen test, trans-rectal ultrasound, prostate biopsy and so on.

Treatments involve: radiation therapy, hormone therapy, removal of prostate gland, freezing prostate tissue, chemotherapy and immunotherapy. Alternative actions include: art therapy, dance therapy, exercise, music therapy, support groups and meditation. Fortunately, men whose prostate cancer is detected at an early stage may not need any treatment, except for regular checkups and continuous scrutiny.

Recently, there’s been success stories of men being cured of prostate cancer – wherein the tumour was deprived of testosterone, because cancer fuels itself on testosterone. Therefore, shortage of testosterone weakened the effect of cancer. However, in some prostate cancer patients an overdose of testosterone showed the same results.

Testicular Cancer

Now, another cancer that imposes itself to men’s genitalia – or as we may refer to them, sex organs – is testicular cancer. The prostate gland ships and nurtures the semen, but testes are the builders of that semen. The troubling reality is that younger men aged 15-35 are more prone to it. Mercifully, it’s not a complete fiasco because by the grace of scientists it is highly curable by chemotherapy!

Testicular cancer usually affects one testicle and spares the other. Its warning signs are: an inflated testicle or a lump in it, heaviness in scrotum, nagging pain in groin/abdomen, sudden collection of fluid in scrotum, backache, and enlargement/tenderness of breasts. Young males with a family history of testicular cancer, abnormal testicle development or an undescended testicle are at higher risk.

Tests that’ll help you identify this malaise are: blood tests, ultrasound etc. Removal of a testicle and CT-scan, including treatments like radiation therapy, surgery or chemotherapy, can be very helpful. The best possible way to fend-off testicular cancer is by inspecting your scrotum/testicles for any swellings/lumps.

Male Depression

The last goal of Movember is to propagate awareness on male depression and suicide prevention. It’s a hushed pandemic floating around that today’s modern yet conservative society is hesitant to talk about unabashedly. There’s a certain reluctance to vocalise such issues that are taking away so many lives. Depressed men are dying to be heard! Our social order is such that we’re becoming modern in appearance but not in thought! Why teach our boys to be heroic all the time? Why not instil the thought that tears are the strongest form of showing emotion? It is perfectly fine to feel or be sad/disheartened by failure.

When they go through such a spectrum of emotions, they shouldn’t take shelter in loneliness. It should not be a stigma or something to be frowned upon. This chauvinism is inculcated by us and needs to be eradicated to save the lives of innumerable men. There’s no oddity in seeking counselling services. Likewise, there’s nothing more honorable and courageous than confronting your deepest emotions instead of shying away from them.

We need to become more empathetic and lend our ears to hear what the depressed are not saying. The bitter truth is that betrayal doesn’t come from your enemies. Similarly, when and how your own body will turn against you can’t be foreseen. It can however definitely be kept at bay – by getting acquainted with certain facts, nurturing, caring and not giving up for as long as you can. Nevertheless, science will always have a fistful of unanswered questions.

The writer is an Entrepreneurial Biotechnologist, and passionate about creating awareness among the masses and steering a tangible change in the healthcare delivery systems.

Email: [email protected]

Facebook page: The Health Plug

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