LAST month you may have noticed more men than usual sporting a newly-grown moustache.
This may well be due to “Movember”, the charity that encouraged men to grow and look after a moustache during November, to raise awareness and funds for men’s health issues, such as prostate cancer.
Various celebrities including Stephen Fry grew a moustache for the month and the Movember event has inspired us to take another look at prostate cancer.
One fact stands out – male life expectancy is lower than for women.
Men are 50% more likely to die from cancer and in 2009 prostate cancer accounted for around one in four (24%) of male cancers diagnosed in the UK.
Men are less likely to visit their GP for an annual health check or to be screened for serious diseases.
But delaying seeing a doctor can make a big difference to how effective treatment for cancer can be.
Even when they have symptoms, men are more likely to delay going to see their GP. It’s clear that men need to get more savvy about their health and learn to deal with health issues as soon as they arise.
Few men appear to know anything much about their prostate or what can go wrong with it.
The prostate is only found in men and is usually around the size and shape of a walnut. It sits underneath the bladder and the urethra (the tube through which the urine leaves the body) runs through the middle of it.
The prostate’s major task is to make the fluid that carries semen and so it plays a crucial role in a man’s sex life. The causes of prostate cancer are not known. It is more common among men who are over 50 years of age and among the offshore working community there are a large number of men who fit this profile.
Prostate cancer is also more prevalent among men with a history of prostate cancer in their family and also among men of black African and black Caribbean origins.
It has been suggested that too much fat in the diet may play a role in causing this cancer and as a fat-rich diet can also lead to other health problems, it’s a good idea to watch what you eat and limit the amounts of fat you consume.
A good start is to read the labels when you are food shopping and try an choose the low-fat options.
Prostate cancer may not initially show any obvious symptoms but they can include: needing to urinate more often, especially at night; a feeling that the bladder has not emptied completely; difficulty starting to pass urine, blood in urine or semen, painful or difficult urination or ejaculation. As this cancer advances, other symptoms may become apparent, such as weight loss and also pain in the bones caused by the spread of the cancer which is noticeable in the back, hips or pelvis.
It’s important to remember that there are other non-cancerous conditions that could be causing similar symptoms and they should always be investigated.
Prostate cancer has a much better outcome if it is treated early before it has the time to spread.
This simple fact reinforces just how important it is to see your doctor if you have any concerns or symptoms – prostate cancer can’t be ignored and if treated early chances of survival are excellent.
There are various common tests that your doctor will use to diagnose prostate cancer:
a prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test
a digital rectum examination (DRE) which involves the doctor feeling your prostate gland through the wall of your back passage. When a serious issue such as prostate cancer is in question, there is no room for being shy about a DRE – your doctor will have carried out this procedure umteem times and it can’t be stressed too much that early detection can lead to a significantly better outcome.
a urine test
a flow of urine test, called uroflowmetry
an ultrasound scan to check how well you empty your bladder.
If you have a concern about this issue then you can always talk to the medic on your installation who can give you useful health information and will advise you to seek advice from a physician if necessary.
Don’t be a part of the statistics that show that men are less likely to seek medical attention even when symptoms are present. Live wisely and live longer.
Yvonne Melnyk is medical services clinical co-ordinator at Abermed. For more information about prostate cancer see www.prostate-cancer.org.uk and if you are thinking of growing a sponsored moustache for next November see www.uk.movember.com