You might notice more mustache-embellished male faces this month, as part of the Movember movement. Two health care workers from Luminis health are talking about Movember, and its mission to create awareness about some serious dangers to manly health--cancer and mental health issues.
Besides skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer that impacts men According to the American Cancer Society about 248,530 new cases of prostate cancer occur each year and about 34,130 men die from the disease annually.
Mental health is also a real problem among men. Almost 50,000 Americans took their own life in 2019 alone, and men died by suicide more than three and a half times more than women. White males accounted for 69.38% of suicide deaths in 2019.
By the way if you, or somebody you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts you can call the numbers below for help.
Movember is a way to call attention to these serious issues in a everyday, conversational way. So many of our families are impacted by them, yet we don't often talk about them, Yet talking is often the first step in combatting both these risks to men's health.
Dr. Amar Rewari, Chief of Radiation Oncology at Anne Arundel Medical Center, said he thinks the Movember movement and its abundant mustaches are an important catalyst for dialogue regarding men's cancer risk.
"I've noticed over the last decade this time of year, seeing more men with mustaches," he said. "That sparks a conversation. I do think as a method of creating awareness related to men's health it is useful."
Danny Watkins, director of substance use services at Anne Arundel Medical Center, also believes the movement has value, but only so far as it leads to effective action.
"If it's just a word, than it's not going to be impactful," he said.
Men's Mental Health
Confronting a mental health challenge in a man, whether its yourself or another, is all about opening your mouth and recognizing that there's a problem going on. For a man, that's not always as easy as it may sound.
"Talking about it is the only way to solve it," Watkins said. "Most people can't control their own mental health symptoms themselves."
If you are someone who is concerned about a man in your life, a successful conversation can depend on how you bring the subject up. You have to be a person the man trusts enough to be open to talking about what he is going through.
That can mean, if you're a guy, doing something you don't find easy to do--talking about how you yourself have encountered difficult periods in the past.
"There's a lot of things we can do to create trust in a relationship," Watkins said. "Mainly those things are around sharing yourself--sharing some vulnerability."
You can subtly bring up to the man how you may have noticed a difference in their behavior. Let them know they can talk to them at anytime confidentially. And if you've been through rough patches yourself, talk a bit about those.
If you haven't experienced mental health issues yourself, Watkins suggested keeping it even lighter. Be creative. If it's a Friday and your about to enter weekend time off, ask the man if they have any weekend plans that will help them decompress after a stressful work week. Then you might inquire how they've been feeling lately, and how you've been doing too.
"Break the ice gently," he said. " And share that you're a safe person, and that you care about them, and you want to help them."
But what if it's not another person? What if you are the person having trouble?
Mental health stuff doesn't have to go on for very long to start being an issue. Changed sleeping patterns, eating patterns and social patterns can be indicators that you have a problem you should probably deal with by getting help.
"If you notice you're feeling really reserved--you feel irritable, you don't want to be around people, it's hard to sleep at night, you wake up with your mind racing--that type of stuff," Watkins said. "They're (mental health matters) are very treatable, and the first step is just recognizing that you need to get help, and start talking to somebody. There's almost nothing we can't treat.
And treatment can often be med free too. Exercises--meditation and yoga are just a couple--are effective at combatting stress and fighting negative mental health symptoms. Free support group meetings are also available to men who need to talk about what's ailing them.
It's not easy though. To some extent men are playing against a stacked deck when it comes to mental health issues. For many guys, you can't stay strong and express your inner emotions, because it may be seen as a sign of weakness.
"I think it's gender roles that are assigned by society that tell you men are supposed to be strong and not cry," Watkins said. "I think it's a fallacy that men can't be strong and open emotionally at the same time. It's a role that society created that isn't fair."
He said sometimes anyone, man. woman or child, needs a mental health day off.
"Sometimes you really do need to get your stress under control," he said. "There's simple things you can do to take care of yourself."
Those include practicing a normal sleep schedule, getting physical exercise, as well as talking and being verbal.
"There's a lot of early symptoms in mental health," he said. "If you can respond to those early symptoms, and start talking to somebody, you can prevent the downhill slope,"
Men's Physical Health
Like in men's mental health, early prevention can be particularly helpful in cancer care.
"Early screening is important for men who have long life expectancy," Dr. Rewari said. "Typically men with a greater than 10-year life expectancy get screened."
That means regular prostate testing for men aged 50 and over and at 45 year-old for those at higher risk.
Rewari said treating prostate cancer can be tricky. Knowing how to treat a man diagnosed with the cancer depends on different factors.
"Nowadays we have options, like watchful waiting, for low-risk men with non-aggressive prostate cancer. This way they can still be monitored and not over-treated."
Most men who get diagnosed with prostate cancer won't die from it, Rewari said, But the cancer continues to kill 30,000 American men each year, so it's important to get continuing health care if you have it.
And to find out you have it it may help to have a track record of regularly getting the PSA blood test, so doctors will have a track record of your test records to work from.
Dr. Rewari said there are many different types of prostate cancer and many different ways to treat it.
Testicular cancer, also a cause of the Movember movement, is a much rarer cancer. but can be very dangerous. The usual procedure for treating it is removal of the testicle, Rewari said.
"(It's) more common in young men," he said. "Most typically in their mid 30's."
Regular self screening can be critical in catching the disease before it progresses, the doctor said.
So Movember is moving right along. It's already almost mid-month. Men's health matters. Have you seen any men in your life with a bit of hair under their nose? Have you asked how they're doing? Maybe you'll want to--so you're sure to have many more Novembers together as they sport their spectacular 'stache.'
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