The importance of Movember


Movember - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

November is the month to grow a moustache as men across the world join the Movember campaign to change the face of men’s health. The aim is to raise funds and awareness of male specific conditions like prostate cancer, which according to Cancer Research UK, affects one in nine men.

The prostate is a gland that is only found in men. It is located under the bladder where it produces fluid to carry and protect sperm. In younger men, it is about the size of a walnut but it gets bigger with age.

Prostate cancer is now the most common cancer in men, with some 40,000 patients diagnosed each year in the UK. That effectively means that a quarter of male cancer cases are of the prostate. We don’t really know what causes it but you are more likely to develop it as you get older. While men under 50 are occasionally affected, this is rare and the majority of cases are in men aged over 70.

Tim Larner, a Urologist from Brighton, tells us how it can be treated: “Despite the grim statistics, prostate cancer can be successfully treated, particularly if it is discovered in the early stages. Many prostate cancers are slow growing, so unless the tumour is causing troublesome symptoms, “active surveillance” to ensure it is not progressing is quite often the recommended treatment, particularly in older patients.

“If the cancer has not spread beyond the boundaries of the prostate, treatment is often successful. One option is a prostatectomy, often recommended for younger patients who are in relatively good health. This is a surgical procedure to remove the entire prostate done under general anaesthetic. It is generally effective if the cancer is still contained in the prostate.

“A less invasive procedure is high intensity focused ultrasound, (HIFU), where a beam of intense ultrasounds is focused on the cancerous cells. The sudden rise in temperature created by the beam destroys the cancerous cells without affecting the surrounding healthy tissue and nerves. This keeps side effects to a minimum. HIFU is a relatively new treatment that has been hailed as ground-breaking and appears, so far, to have good success rates.

“Patients who are unsuitable for surgery, perhaps because of their age or the nature of their cancer, may have the option of radiotherapy. The cancerous cells are targeted with a high dose of radiation to destroy them.”

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A diagnosis of prostate cancer for you or for someone close to you will inevitably be a shock and in these circumstances it can be difficult to remain positive. But it may help to know that over a quarter of a million men in the UK are living with or have had prostate cancer. If you are affected by prostate cancer in any way, Prostate Cancer UK, one of the main beneficiaries of Movember, provides support for patients and their families.

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