November is Men's Health Awareness Month with International Men's Day falling on November 19th.
Living a healthy & fulfilling life is important for all, but unfortunately, men typically pass away 4.5 years younger than women, and many of the reasons for this are preventable. It is important for not only men, but those around them to have an understanding of the symptoms & causes of common men's health issues.
Two of the most common cancers in men are prostate and testicular cancer, and both relate to the male reproductive system:
In the UK, around 2,400 men are diagnosed with testicular cancer each year – that’s more than six each day. Men in their early 30s are the most likely to get it, and it becomes less common as men get older.
You should check regularly for any changes to your testicles. The ideal time to check is just after a warm bath or shower: hold your scrotum in the palm of your hand and check each testicle by rolling it between the thumb and fingers.
It’s perfectly normal for testicles to be a different size and length; however, if you notice any changes such as swelling, lumps, hardening or pain, you should seek the advice of your GP as soon as possible. These symptoms are usually a sign of infection, inflammation, fluid build-up (hydrocele) or damage, but you should get them checked to be safe.
Many testicular cancers can be cured if treated early so it is important to check regularly and don’t delay seeking GP advice.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in UK males at 27%, having increased by 48% in males since the early 1990s. About 42,300 cases are diagnosed as prostate cancer a year, and the number is rising.
Prostate cancer is most common in older men. On average, each year 34 out of 100 of new cases are in men aged 75 to 79. It is more common in black Caribbean and black African men than in white men, and it is less common in Asian men. A man’s risk of developing prostate cancer depends on many factors, and it is more likely if you have a close relative who has had prostate cancer.
The prostate is a walnut-sized gland, whose function is to produce fluid, which mixes with sperm during ejaculation to create semen. Prostate function is governed by the male hormone testosterone. The prostate sits just beneath the bladder and the urethra (the tube from the bladder to the penis) runs through the centre of the prostate gland.
The most common symptoms are related to urination and ejaculation and can include:
- A need to urinate frequently, especially at night;
- Difficulty with starting urination;
- Week or interrupted flow;
- Painful or burning urination;
- Difficulty in having an erection;
- Painful ejaculation;
- Blood in urine or semen.
In most cases, these symptoms are most commonly due to an enlarged prostate (commonly caused by benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) - a non-cancerous growth of cells) and can be easily managed with lifestyle changes, medications if required or occasionally surgery if this is deemed necessary.
Other causes can also include prostatitis (infection of the prostate gland) or prostate cancer, so it is important to seek advice from your GP as soon as possible if you develop any symptoms.
Please note: ‘Men’ in the context of our article may include men, trans women, people who are non-binary who were assigned male at birth and cis gender men; and ‘women’ may include women, trans men, people who are non-binary who were assigned female at birth and cis gender women.