Stay healthy man: Male cancer awareness

There are times when being a man is difficult. When I personally find things are getting tough, I often remember the words of Tammy Wynette: “Sometimes it’s hard to be a woah-man”. I’m pretty sure that’s what her words are and I’m even more confident that by woah-man, she means a gentleman who is suffering from an illness that predominantly affects men.

To be honest I’ve a terrible memory for lyrics but nevertheless, there are a few reasons why she could be saying “woah” in relation to these illnesses – they are often in particularly sensitive, and traditionally taboo, areas. Nowhere is this truer than in the case of the male-specific cancers.

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Deadly ignorance

Testicular, prostate and penile cancer all affect an area which some old-fashioned, and outdated, notion of propriety says are off limits for polite society and this has led to a lack of awareness and some embarrassment over the illnesses. Well propriety, enough is enough.

All over the country there are people making a concerted effort to tackle the lack of knowledge in relation to male cancers. This has certainly been the case recently, during the Orchid Male Cancer Awareness Week which has been running from 22 – 28 April.

Increasing the awareness of male cancers is vital for saving lives. The earlier a cancer is detected the higher the chances are of curing the illness, so more knowledge means more chance of detecting these signs early. Getting the word out it is a serious business, but it doesn’t have to be a serious business…

Spreading the word

During the Orchid Male Cancer Awareness Week there has been a lot of activity across the country and much of it has been pretty physical. A band of 27 hardy runners who took on the London Marathon to raise money and awareness (two of them were dressed as nuts – walnuts), while on Wednesday 24th April the Orchid Blue River Run also took place in the capital.

For the less active, supporters of the charity have been running information days, meeting healthcare professionals and talking to journalists in a bid to raise awareness amongst the public and to get people talking – which traditionally has been harder than you might have thought.

We’ve got the tools to talk – we just need to use them. And when we do use them, here’s what we should be saying.

Male cancer – the signs

Each of the cancers has its own ‘at-risk’ group, and each has different symptoms that you should be on the lookout for. Just remember though, even if you’re not in the target group this is just a guide – these cancers can potentially affect any man:

  • Testicular cancer: This particularly affects young men from 14-45. The symptoms include a pea-sized lump in your testicles, a swollen testicle or groin pain. Checking for lumps is a big part of detecting testicular cancer so have a feel – and use the best technique you can.
  • Prostate cancer: Most prostate cancer cases develop in men over 50 when going for regular screenings becomes an important consideration. Symptoms include the need to urinate frequently, difficulty starting to urinate, straining during the process or feeling that you can’t empty your bladder.
  • Penile cancer: Again, this condition tends to affect older guys – between the ages of 50 and 70. The first sign often comes in the form of a change of skin colour on the penis – or a thickening of the skin. This may develop into a growth or sore on the penis, especially around the head. There is rarely pain associated with the condition but really, if anything starts going wrong down there then getting it checked out should be the first thought in your mind!

Getting involved

If you want to help raise awareness then the first thing you should do is check if any of the Orchid Male Cancer Awareness Week events are happening near you. If you’re too late to take part in them then fear not – the battle against these illnesses is year round and you can do your bit to raise awareness any time of the year.

Take stock of your health…

My final advice falls back on the old adage that prevention is better than cure. We are all at risk from developing cancer but there are some things we can do to minimize the danger the disease poses. The first is to get your bodies checked out regularly – that means ensuring that you monitor both your physical and dental health.

Beyond that the best way to stay healthy is to take care of yourself – eat right, get plenty of exercise and stay positive. How you go about this will depend somewhat on your age. The NHS offers advice on the issue depending if you’re a relative youngster or a more practiced hand. It is worth looking into the Bupa Cancer Promise too to ensure you have a balanced and informed opinion. Adopting a healthy lifestyle will bring you plenty of benefits – and will make it that little bit easier to be a woah-man.

How are you going to help the fight against male cancer?

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