Wesley Baker, CEO of ANCON Medical, highlights the importance of Movember in raising awareness for male cancer, with particular focus on prostate cancer, and mental health illness
Coming to the end of Movember, it is important to remember the reasons why so many people do make the effort of growing what is often an uncharacteristic moustache over the course of November. The initiative started 15 years ago as a way to get people talking about men’s health issues and raise money through donations to charities on behalf of those taking part. Since that time, it has become a global movement listed as one of the top 100 global non-Governmental organisations raising over $600million for various charities.
The key aims of growing a moustache as part of Movember are the raising of funds for male cancer charities and mental health foundations and raising awareness of issues men often don’t discuss around their health. It is a well-known trope that men don’t like to talk about their health issues, both physical and mental. In fact, we have conducted research that shows that 52% of men in the UK have not visited a doctor in the last five years, so it seems there is still far more to be done in terms of encouraging men to take their health seriously.
Prostate and testicular cancers
The key diseases that make up the focus for the month are prostate and testicular cancers. Each year prostate cancer kills around 12,000 men in the UK. This is despite it being an almost fully treatable disease for those that catch it at stage 1. The five-year survival rate for those who do catch it early is 100%, making it all the more galling that so many are dying of the disease so unnecessarily.
Treatment of the disease is advancing at a rapid rate with new methods and drugs making survival for longer periods of time more and more a part of the norm. But surviving it is a combination of these innovative treatments and the more basic stage of diagnosis. If you’re trying to get from London to Edinburgh before 8pm it helps to have a high-speed train, but it might be easier just to leave earlier.
Raising awareness and encouraging men to visit the doctor to undergo screening for prostate cancer is one of the main aims of growing a moustache. It is hoped that the uncharacteristic facial hair will prompt friends and family to ask why and for how long it has been there for. Explaining the motivations behind it then opens up an opportunity to discuss men’s health issues which are otherwise thought of as taboo.
Male mental health
The stigma associated with talking about these issues is especially prevalent when it comes to mental health. Suicide is the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK. A shocking statistic that highlights what a significant problem depression and mental illness is to young men in the United Kingdom. Reassuring men that it is ok to openly discuss their mental health issues is one of the first steps to helping tackle the source of this statistic.
The idea is that again the moustache will encourage conversations around the topic. And also, that if you can make it physically apparent to people at work or in your circle of friends that you are happy to talk about mental health issues, it may help someone who is suffering to speak up and ask for help.
The importance of these kinds of initiatives is hard to overstate in the drive to stop men dying unnecessarily in the UK. It may seem trivial but any effort to raise awareness and funds will save lives especially with the gathering momentum of continued annual initiatives such as this.
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