Did you know that men die on average 6 years earlier than women? Many of the reasons for not living as long as their female counter parts can be largely preventable. With help from Movember, we’ve taken a look at three common health conditions affecting men and how you can reduce your risks.
1. Testicular cancer
While it’s the most common cancer in young men in Australia, the survival rate of testicular cancer is higher than 95%. However, for some men, treatment-related side effects can have long-term impacts which is why early detection and treatment are important to getting back to a full and healthy life.
Testicles are responsible for the production of male hormones (mainly testosterone) and sperm. Cancer begins with an abnormal growth or tumour and can develop in one or both testes. Men with undescended testes at birth or a family history of testicular cancer are at a higher risk. If you’ve had testicular cancer in the past, there’s also a higher risk it could return.
The best thing you can do as a man is to check your testicles every month or so and if something doesn’t feel right, speak to your doctor. You can learn more about self-checks here.
2. Prostate cancer
The second most common cancer in men is prostate cancer with 1 in 6 Australian men diagnosed in their lifetime. The risk of developing prostate cancer increases with age and with family history. The chance of survival 5 years beyond diagnosis is 98% if detected early, compared to 26% if detected late.
So what is the prostate? The prostate is a gland, usually the size and shape of a walnut, that sits underneath the bladder and surrounds the urethra in men. Its main job is to help make semen. Cancer occurs when some of the cells produce more rapidly than usual resulting in a tumour.
Not everyone who is diagnosed with prostate cancer will experience symptoms which is why routine check-ups are vital. Some men however may notice changes to frequency of, or pain with urination and frequent pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips or upper thighs. You can read more about the signs and symptoms here.
Prostate cancer can be detected through a routine blood test which measures the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) concentration in the blood. If you’re over 50, or over 45 and are of African or Caribbean descent or have a family history of prostate cancer, speak with your doctor about PSA testing.
3. Mental health and suicide prevention
Statistics show that 3 in every 4 suicides in Australia are men. Asking for help or reaching out, regardless of gender, can be difficult.
If someone is going through a tough time, they may not talk about it even if they want to. Here’s a few suggestions from Movember to get the conversation started:
- Before starting a difficult conversation make sure you’re in a good state of mind and have time to listen.
- Some people find it more comfortable to talk when they’re not face-to-face so try getting back to nature, engaging in a shared hobby, watching TV or even simply sending a text.
- Prepare yourself that they might not want to talk, and be ok with that.
- Listen to what they have to say and just be yourself, you don’t have to be the doctor or the counsellor. Take what they’re saying seriously; try questions like “how long have you felt that way?” instead of diagnosing problems with statements like “it seems like you just need to relax.”
- You don’t have to know the answers, but you can encourage some action, for example ask them if they’ve spoken to their partner or offer some resources such as these.
- Finally, check in. Keep in touch with where they’re at and make a plan for the future – like catching up in person or grabbing a bite to eat and follow through. Make sure they know you’re there when they need you.
Living your healthiest life
Regular check-ups with your GP or health care professional can help identify risk factors and small issues before they become big problems. They can also guide you on what routine tests and screens you need for your personal circumstances. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.