18 October 12 Posted by Dr Duncan
Dr Duncan Jefferson talks about Movember, a fun way to focus on men's health.
Up until the advent of antibiotics in the late 1930’s the standard treatment for an infected finger, where the infection was showing signs of spreading beyond the wrist and into the arm, was above elbow amputation! I mention this because to us in the 21st century - all of 80 years later - that sounds to be a drastic, if not barbaric, treatment. I fully agree, and hope that in the future we will look back and make the same comment on the practice of removing both breasts in order to prevent those who are at high risk of developing breast cancer: or in the case of men, of being castrated in order to control the spread of their prostate cancer.
Which brings me to the happy face of progress in science: Movember!
Movember is a fun way to focus on two big issues that can affect men:
1. Prostate Cancer
2. Mood disorders - such as depression and anxiety.
Not that growing facial fuzz is going to do anything to prevent either problem, but it’s a way of showcasing things that are often seen as “secret men’s business” and rarely spoken of outside the locker room. Movember has come a long way since it first appeared on the upper lips of a few males in Melbourne back in 2003! In 2011 it raised $124 million around the world and had over 854,000 mustachioed males proudly flaunting their hirsute creations.
Unfortunately, although our knowledge of prostate disease has improved over the same time period, progress towards effective screening and treatment has been less overwhelming. For many years the PSA test was used a screening test, although on its own it is a very crude tool and was an inappropriate way of using that particular blood test. Coupled with Digital Rectal Examination (DRE) - the rubber glove test that makes big men flinch - the two tests combined were a more useful screening tool, but they still couldn’t differentiate between the more aggressive form of prostate cancer that kills, and the more common variety that the vast majority of men in their 70’s, 80s and 90s have, but rarely die from.
Over the last couple of years debate has raged worldwide within the prostate-expert communities as to how to promote effective prostate screening. The most recent statements suggest that PSA should not be used as a tool in isolation. What is needed is a specific “bio-marker” for the more aggressive forms of prostate cancer that are easy to detect in blood/urine/semen and that can be used to monitor for signs of progression of the disease too. It all sounds so easy, but when you consider that there are billions of cells in our bodies producing thousands of different chemical compounds, and the experts are trying to identify tiny clusters, of a few hundred cancer cells before they start to grow rapidly and develop their own blood supply: and then they have to produce a treatment that targets ONLY that tiny cluster of cells without damaging the healthy cells, then you begin to realize what an awesome challenge that is. One could almost say it’s enough to make a man depressed, which brings me onto Beyond Blue, another group that the Mo’ Bros support with their funny faces.
One of the Movember initiatives that caught my quirky eye is the Running of the Mos - much safer than running with bulls in Spain - which combines facial “art” with physical fitness: and all experts would agree that working on physical fitness is a key part of the therapy needed to help in the management of mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. Beyond Blue has done great things to de-mystify depression and bring it out of the dark recesses where it has lurked for far too long. Depression will affect one in three people in their lifetime - so if you haven’t suffered from it at some time or other, then you will certainly know lots of people who have! The challenge is always to determine what is the border between sadness or grief and depression, and not even experts can always agree on where that is. But they all do agree that physical activity does help with symptom control and with reducing frequency of episodes.
So when your male partner starts to tickle your face with his funny facial fringe during November, or is seen running through the CBD with similarly lip-laden lads, cut him some slack because he is just doing his bit to support those less fortunate than himself, and he’s probably buying into some future insurance for his own health too.
For all males who want to get involved in Movember, you’ll need to go to their website.
As yet there is no “Running of the Mo” here in WA, so there is a big opportunity to start one up. Anyone interested?
The content of these articles is not tailored for any particular individual's circumstances. The author does not take into account your physical condition, medical history or any medication you may be taking. Any advice or information provided by the author cannot replace the advice of your health care professional. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent those of HBF unless clearly indicated.
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