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More than a mustache: ‘Movember' seeks to raise awareness about men’s health issues

Every November men grow out their facial hair to support men’s health. Mental wellbeing has become a key component.

PORTLAND, Ore. — During the month of November it is common to see more men with mustaches and beards for ‘Movember’ — an annual event where men grow out their facial hair to raise awareness about men’s health issues.

In this week’s Healthier Together, Dr. James Polo with Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oregon has insight on some of the top concerns when it comes to men’s wellness.

Let’s start with early cancer screenings and prevention. The two cancers impacting men, in particular, are prostate and testicular.

Prostate Cancer:

“The thing about prostate cancer is in general it is a very slow-growing cancer. If you can catch it early, the ability to actually achieve a cure is extremely high. So, it's all about screening early,” Polo Said.

It is recommended that men, aged between 55 and 69 should talk to their doctors about being screened for prostate cancer with a prostate specific antigen test, known as a PSA test.

“A prostate specific antigen [is a] very sensitive indicator of something going on in the prostate. If that is at an elevated risk that can help prompt further evaluation to quickly identify a potential prostate cancer,” Polo said.

Symptoms of prostate cancer include:

  • Difficulty or pain urinating
  • Increased need to urinate, particularly at night
  • Trouble getting an erection
  • Issues with ejaculation
  • Pain in the hips, spine, or ribs
  • Weakness in legs or feet
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control

Testicular Cancer:

Testicular cancer is another cancer impacting men that if caught early is treatable.

“Testicular cancer is unique in the sense that it really actually tends to strike younger men. The average age of diagnosis for testicular cancer is actually about 33,” Polo said. “And so the key is, number one, talking about it and making men aware of the fact that they're at risk and teaching them how to actually examine and check. Because they need to be that first line of prevention or the first line of screening.”

A testicular self-exam is an inspection of the appearance and feel of the testicles. Men can do this exam themselves, typically standing in front of a mirror. Click here to learn how to do a self-exam, what to expect, and what to look out for.

Mental Health:

While stigmas around mental health are beginning to fade, there is still a barrier to care for many men.

“In general, societal morays for decades have kind of socialized men into believing, hey, they're tough. They're strong, they're in control. A problem with mental health is really just an assignment defect. The reason that's important is because it plays out in the statistics,” Polo said.

Over 6 million men suffer from depression every year, but that depression often goes undiagnosed, according to Mental Health America.

In 2020, men died by suicide 3.88 times more than women, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Polo said many men have a challenge reaching out for help, making normalization a key factor in changing those statistics.

“It's OK to have a problem,” Polo said. “One thing that can be helpful is for men to actually hear stories from other men. Other men that have struggled, reached out for help, and done well — to demonstrate that; hey, look, it's not a defect you can get help, and actually, the help works.”

Help is available 24/7 through the National Crisis Line, just dial 988.

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