The promotion of men’s health and well-being has become an important issue over the past few decades, with many organisations, initiatives and publications emerging to fill a perceived void in the information available to men. Movember is one such organisation.
Movember was born in 2003 and over the past 16 years has grown into a hugely successful and influential global charity that aims to improve the life expectancy and quality of life of men through raising awareness of men’s health . The charity’s core goal is to raise awareness of premature death among men – an issue that is largely due to preventable diseases (such as prostate and testicular cancer) and suicide . This article explores the three main threats to men’s health and highlights how individuals can support Movember’s mission.
The prostate is an organ that plays a major role in the male reproductive system, the health of which is pivotal to male fertility . Therefore, diseases such as prostate cancer can be detrimental to both reproductive and mental health . If left untreated, prostate cancer can threaten not only a man’s fertility but also his life; however, if the disease is detected early the chances of surviving beyond 5 years increase dramatically (98% if detected early compared with 26% if detected late) . Prostate cancer is hereditary; men with a family history of prostate cancer are 2–3 times more likely to develop the condition than men with no family history of the disease . Prostate cancer frequently occurs in middle-aged men and is highly prevalent in African American men, making age and race additional risk factors [1, 3]. Although symptoms are not always present (especially during early stages of the disease), they can include the following: trouble starting urination, weak or interrupted flow of urine, frequent urination, trouble completely emptying the bladder, and persistent pain in the back, hips or pelvis . Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men; in the UK there over 333,500 men currently living with the disease and dealing with ongoing side effects from prostate cancer treatment .
Testicular cancer is not as common as other forms of cancer; however, it is the most common type of cancer in men aged 15–49 years . Like prostate cancer, testicular cancer has a particularly devastating effect on male reproduction because of the key role that the testicles have in fertility . A fundamental sign of testicular cancer is the development of painless swellings or lumps in the testicles . Other symptoms can include an increasingly firm testicle, a disparity in size between the two testicles, localised aches and pains, and a feeling of increased weight in the scrotum . Approximately 2,300 men are diagnosed with testicular cancer each year in the UK, a number which, for unknown reasons, is increasing. Globally, there are 66,000 new cases of testicular cancer per year [1, 4].
Mental health and suicide prevention
In addition to their immediate effects on sexual reproduction, prostate and testicular cancer can also have a lasting impact on mental health . Mental health issues among men are common; in the UK, males account for 75% of suicides, and globally one man commits suicide every minute . Many men often find it difficult to discuss their mental health because of the stereotypical definitions of masculinity. Organisations such as Movember have been established to help break down these barriers.
By 2030, Movember aims to reduce the number of deaths from prostate and testicular cancer, and the number of men facing ongoing side effects from treatment, by 50% . Another of their goals is to decrease the rate of male suicide by 25%, also by 2030 . Movember plans to use methods such as raising disease awareness to facilitate early diagnosis; increasing the understanding of prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health problems; and reducing the costs of treatment . Public participation is key .
How you can help to raise awareness
Grow a Mo: One of the main ways to raise awareness of men’s health is by growing a moustache (a ‘mo’) throughout November . Not only can this encourage donations but it can also raise awareness simply through conversation . Since 2003, 5 million people have participated in this activity .
Move: An alternative to growing a moustache, the Move campaign asks participants to run or walk 60 kilometres over the month of November – 1 kilometre for each man lost to suicide every minute .
Host a Mo-ment: A third option involves meeting up with friends and taking part in a social activity with the aim of raising funds for Movember .
Even though there is a lot more work to be done,, charities such as Movember are fighting hard to raise awareness and reduce the impact of prostate cancer, testicular cancer and poor mental health on men. For more information on Movember and its mission, please visit https://uk.movember.com/about/foundation.
1. Movember. Men’s Health: Quality of life. Available at: https://uk.movember.com/mens-health/quality-of-life. Accessed November 2019.
2. Verze P, Cai T and Lorenzetti S. The role of the prostate in male fertility, health and disease. Nat Rev Urol 2016; 13 (7): 379–386. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/303742057_The_role_of_the_prostate_in_male_fertility_health_and_disease
3. TrueNTH: A Movember initiative. Available at: https://us.truenth.org/?_ga=2.163734591.1845075158.1573560102-1785871360.1573560102. Accessed November 2019.
4. National Health Service. Testicular cancer: Overview. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/testicular-cancer/. Accessed November 2019.