It’s November again - a time each year when men are encouraged to focus on their health and well-being. The aim of the month is to raise awareness of men’s health issues – namely prostate and testicular cancers, mental health and suicide prevention. 

Ultimately the aim is to save lives. In this blog, expert information development nurse Richard talks more about men’s health, and some of the male cancers.

The Movember movement

Each year, men are encouraged to get involved and start talking about their health, by growing a moustache – a “mo”. The Movember Foundation began in Australia back in 2003. It’s now pretty much worldwide and has involved over 5 million men (and women), raising over £440 million to help stop men dying too young. On average, men die six years earlier than women.

As well as raising awareness, the Movember Foundation is changing the way men’s health is researched and the way health services reach and support men.

Cancer awareness

It’s good to be aware of all cancers and to know the main symptoms that you should see your GP about. But as it’s Men’s Health Month, we are going to concentrate on the two main “male” cancers – testicular and prostate.

Testicular cancer

Fortunately, this isn’t one of the most common cancers. It is also one of the most treatable. Approximately 2400 men are diagnosed each year in the UK. And about 98% are successfully treated. But some men are dying from testicular cancer, and others leave symptoms for so long that they have to have extensive treatment.

Testicular cancer mostly affects boys and men under 35, but it can affect men at any age. Men should regularly check for symptoms – once a month, ideally. Get to know what your testicles normally feel like so you can spot any changes.

You should see your GP if you have any of these symptoms. Don’t ignore them:

  • A painless swelling or a lump in a testicle – sometimes the swelling may suddenly get bigger and become painful.
  • A dull ache or pain, or heaviness in the scrotum.

Although it can feel embarrassing to go to the GP with these symptoms, your GP is used to dealing with this kind of issue. While most testicular lumps aren’t caused by cancer, it’s still important to get them checked.

Prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men – over 40, 000 men are diagnosed each year in the UK. It’s often classed as an “older” man’s disease, primarily affecting men over 50, but can affect men younger than this. It tends to be slow growing, but can grow more quickly for a small number of men.

You are more likely to get prostate cancer if you:

  • are over 50
  • are of black African or Caribbean ethnicity
  • have a family history of prostate cancer
  • eat a diet high in animal fat and low in fresh fruit and veg.

But any man can get prostate cancer – you don’t have to have these risk factors.

‘My father and my paternal grandfather suffered from prostate cancer. When I was diagnosed, it wasn't entirely unexpected, but devastating nonetheless.’ Robert

The symptoms of benign (non-cancerous) enlargement of the prostate and prostate cancer are similar.

They can include any of the following:

  • difficulty passing urine
  • passing urine more frequently than usual, especially at night
  • the feeling of not completely emptying your bladder
  • needing to rush to the toilet to pass urine
  • blood in the urine or semen (this is not common)
  • pain when passing urine or ejaculating (this is rare).

If you have any of these symptoms, it’s important to have them checked by your GP.

Improve your health

Getting more physically active is a great way to improve your health. It doesn’t have to be hard, you don’t have to start running marathons. But some regular activity will help to improve your health and reduce your risk of some types of cancer.

Here are some examples of exercise you could do, and what the benefits are:

The diagram has three columns that show how much physical activity is recommended for adults in the UK. The first column is ‘Be active – keep your heart and mind healthy’. Beneath this is a row called ‘How often’ and it shows that you should aim do 150 minutes of moderate activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week. Under the 150 minutes there are three icons showing that walking, gardening and swimming count as moderate activity. Under the 75 minutes are icons showing that running, sports and taking the stairs count as vigorous activity. The second main column is called ‘Build strength – strengthen muscles, bones and joints’. In the ‘How often’ row, it suggests doing these sorts of exercises 2 days a week. Below the ‘How often’ row are three icons showing that going to the gym, doing aerobics and carrying bags of shopping are strength exercises. The third main column is called ‘Improve balance – reduce your risk of falling’. In the ‘How often’ row, it suggests doing these sorts of exercises 2 days a week. Below the ‘How often’ row are three icons showing that dancing, tai chi and bowling are balance exercises.  A final row at the bottom is called ‘Sit Less’. This has icons of a TV, a sofa and a computer. Under these it says ‘Break up long periods of sitting down to help keep your muscles, bones, and joints strong’.

Following a healthy diet will also help prevent cancer and a whole range of other illnesses. 

A balanced diet looks like this:

The diagram shows a plate with different food groups on it. The food types are colour coded. The plate shows the proportion of each type of food group you should be eating for a healthy, balanced diet. Fruit and vegetables and starchy foods (carbohydrates) are both equally large. Together they make up just over three quarters of the plate. The remaining quarter is made up of protein, dairy, and oil and spreads. Protein is the biggest of these. The dairy share is half the size of the protein one. The oil and spreads share is smaller. The centre of the plate has the title: ‘What share of each food group should I be eating for a healthy diet’?

Getting more information support

If you would like more information support, you can call our cancer information specialist between 9am and 8pm, Monday to Friday on 0808 808 00 00.

There is also lots of support available on the Online Community, especially if you are feeling down or in need of a friendly ear.

To see what else Macmillan's cancer information team has been blogging about, please visit our blog home page! You can subscribe to receive our blogs by email or RSS too.

We're with you every step of the way

The Macmillan team is here to help. Our cancer support specialists can answer your questions, offer support, or simply listen if you need a chat. Call us free on 0808 808 00 00.

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