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Health Matters: Movember is here

Joanne Rose is a retired nurse with 35 years of experience in public health, health promotion and protection. She lives off grid in Stephenville, on her farm with her husband Tom, and is lucky enough to be surrounded by family. Health perspectives shared in this column are meant to inspire and inform, but not to replace the advice of your regular healthcare professional.

Movember is an annual event involving the growing or moustaches during the month of November to raise awareness of men’s health issues. There is a movement in Canada to raise awareness of key issues such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer and men’s mental health. Wikipedia identifies Movember as a portmanteau (a new word I learned!) of the Australian-English word for moustache and the month of November. The change in the appearance of facial hair can trigger the question: why are you doing this? And subsequently, open the conversation to discuss important health issues.

A very common cancer mantra is to promote early cancer detection, diagnosis and treatment and thereby decrease the number of preventative deaths. The Movember Foundation encourages men to be aware of their family history of cancer and live a healthier lifestyle.

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men globally. The risk of prostate cancer increases with age but does affect men of all ages. So, if you are a young man, you should really be aware of what to watch for and when to seek medical assessment. Men who are of African or Caribbean descent, and men with a family history (a brother or father with prostate cancer) are 2.5 times more likely to develop prostate cancer.

If you are 50, you should discuss PSA testing with your family doctor or regular health care provider. If you are in one of the higher risk categories just mentioned, you should start that discussion at age 45. A PSA or Prostate Specific Antigen Test is a simple blood test that profiles the PSA concentration in your blood. Not everyone experiences signs or symptoms of prostate cancer. Know that changes in urination with or without pain should trigger a visit to your family doctor.

I love the direct message and humour contained in the Movember movement webpage! Testicular cancer is a topic that you don’t hear much about. They have a great message and a straight-forward approach! In the words of the Movember movement, “the best thing you can do for your nuts is to give them a feel every month or so, get to know what’s normal for you. That way, if anything changes you can act on it.”

Testicular cancer is highly treatable and curable. The Canadian Cancer Society provides self-examination information, and the Movember webpage has a toolbox for men that are diagnosed with testicular cancer, called Nuts and Bolts. It’s a great place to learn more information!

This month’s theme for men’s health also calls our attention to mental health. Some helpful tips for all of us are to initiate conversations, we all say how are you doing? And for the most part the answer is fine. However, if you notice that someone is less conversational, avoiding contact or behaving different you can take a few simple actions to show your support.

ASK – The first step is to ask how someone is doing and go deeper than I am fine.

LISTEN – Show your interest and support for you friend, family member or peer. Make some uninterrupted time to have that conversation.

ENCOURAGE ACTION – Help him focus on things that may help make him feel better, if he has been feeling low or depressed for some time now, encourage him to seek help from a physician, counselling service or the local support program.

CHECK IN – Make a plan to get together again soon to continue the conversation, see how he is doing and show you care.

While this really simplifies a caring approach to someone experiencing mental health issues, do encourage the use of the local and provincial access points for mental health supports. These supports include Doorways, a mental health support service in Stephenville, call 643-8740 for more information. The provincial Mental Health Crisis Line is 1-888-737-4668. The CHANNAL Peer Support Warm Line is 1-855-753-2560.

These are very simple messages on important health issues. For more information go to the Canadian Cancer Society website, the Movember Foundation webpage or discuss things further with your regular health care provider.

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