Why Men’s Health Awareness Month (November) is so important
Things are about to get hairy, but for a good cause. Today marks the first day of Men's Health Awareness Month where men will toss aside their razors to grow a mustache or beard to show support for men fighting their biggest fight.
Their biggest fight may be testicular or prostate cancer or a mental health sickness among other health concerns.
Medical Director of Urologic Oncology for Hackensack Meridian Health Cancer Care in Monmouth and Ocean Counties Dr. Mark Perlmutter says testicular cancer typically affects men ages 15 to 35 who should administer a self-exam once a month.
"If you start to feel a palpable lump or mass if you do a testicular self-exam that is usually how it's identified," Perlmutter said.
He says if you feel something abnormal, make an appointment with your urologist to get it checked out further to see if it's something or nothing.
Perlmutter says even though you may feel a mass, it doesn't always mean it's testicular cancer.
"There are things called testicular cysts or cysts in the organs adjacent to the testicle called the epididymis and epididymal cysts which are extremely common," Perlmutter said.
There's no known cause for testicular cancer but Perlmutter says genetics may play a role.
"We know there is a genetic component and that it occurs much more commonly in Caucasian Americans and is less common in African Americans and far less common for men who live in Africa," Perlmutter said. "There's not a clear risk factor as there are in some of the other cancers."
If you are diagnosed, there are some treatments or procedures that can be done right away to help you back into your regular daily routine.
"We actually have fantastic treatments and fantastic results with treatment of testicular cancer," Perlmutter said. "If there is concern for testicular cancer, the first step is to simply remove that testicle, it need an immediate surgical treatment."
He said they would then do some followup testing to see whether or not the cancer has spread outside of the testicle, usually to the lymph nodes in the pelvis and abdomen.
"If so there are very effective systemic therapies, types of chemotherapy that men tolerate extremely well that can essentially eradicate the cancer," Perlmutter said.
There is some very encouraging news for those struggling to beat this cancer.
"The survival rate is well over 90-percent, it's one of those tumors that we have a fantastic survival rate on," Perlmutter said.
Prostate Cancer is the number one most common type of cancer among men after skin cancer and the number two cause of cancer related deaths in men.
Perlmutter says prostate cancer typically affects men in their 60's so they should begin getting regular screenings between 40 and 50-years old.
He says about one in nine men will develop prostate cancer.
"Screening for prostate cancer is incredibly important," Perlmutter said. "The screening is a combination of a PSA blood test which is a simple blood test that you can do along with a digital rectal exam to feel the prostate. Obviously that's something men can't do themselves but either your primary doctor or urologist can certainly do a prostate exam to feel if there's anything abnormal about the prostate that is concerning."
Perlmutter says there are a number of variables that increase the risk for prostate cancer.
"People at increased risk are African American men or people of African decent, people with a family history if you have a father or a brother with prostate cancer that doubles your risk of getting it and people with other advanced lethal adrenal carcinomas." Perlmutter said. "Even if you don't have prostate cancer in your family, if there's a long family history of breast cancer, ovarian cancer or pancreatic cancer, those cancers also increase your families risk of developing prostate cancer."
While nearly 30,000 men in the U.S. lose their fight each year, he says there are about 3,000,000 survivors.
While these are two of the more talked about cancers in men, there are others as well as medical conditions we're raising of during the month of November like colon cancer (also found in women) kidney cancer, bladder cancer which "is the 4th most common cancer in men."
"If you develop blood in the urine or even if you have a urine test that shows a small amount of blood in the urine, that's not normal and you definitely should see a urologist to rule out bladder cancer," Perlmutter said. "Kidney Cancer is the 7th most common cancer found in men, which has a very high cure rate if you're able to treat it before it gets a chance to spread."
Another type of cancer found in men, that is very uncommon is penile cancer.
"Men who are not circumcised have a risk of developing penile cancer, cancer of the penis, and that is fortunately very uncommon and doesn't occur in men until they reach their 70's or older but obviously that could be a very devastating type of cancer," Perlmutter said.
There's no diet factors known that could prevent testicular cancer Perlmutter says but there are some healthier habits you can envelop to prevent other forms of cancer.
"We know that a high red meat diet will increase your risk for not only colon cancer but there are some studies that suggest that it will increase your risk of developing prostate cancer in time," Perlmutter said. "A high fat diet, a low fruit diet and low vegetable diet definitely increase your risk for prostate cancer."
He recommends a very well balanced and healthy diet.
Here is a video of my November 2017 'no shave' journey to help raise awareness about men's cancers and mental health disorders in hopes I could play even a small role in supporting men who fear the battle ahead or need a friend from afar. Remember you are not alone.