What is Movember?
Movember is a charity that aims to raise awareness and funding to help the 55,000 men diagnosed with some form of male cancer in the UK each year. In addition to tackling these cancers, Movember also aims to provide mental health support and suicide prevention aid to struggling men across the globe.
The charity was established in 2003 by Travis Garone and Luke Slattery. They noticed that moustaches were no longer prominent in the current fashion sphere, which then led to the idea of growing a moustache to campaign for men’s mental health and those who have prostate cancer.
However, Movember has since evolved and launched other campaigns for raising money and awareness, such as Move for Movember, Host a Mo-ment, and Mo Your Own Way. In 2020 alone, the Movember global community raised $129 million for men’s health, and 85.9% of these funds were allocated to men’s health projects.
For all cancers, the sooner the diagnosis and treatment, the likelihood of survival is increased. However, many men do not know what signs to look out for. Therefore, we want to take the opportunity this Movember to inform men of what cancers can specifically affect them, what the symptoms are, and how these cancers are treated.
So what are male-specific cancers?
Male-specific cancers are those that can affect the male reproductive system. There are three types:
- Prostate cancer
- Testicular cancer
- Penile cancer
Some of these cancers are more common than others, and each type has its own set of symptoms to be mindful of.
Prostate cancer is the most common male-specific cancer, affecting over 52,000 men in the UK each year, as reported by Cancer Research UK. Over the last decade, the number of men diagnosed has increased, with 1 in 8 men in the UK being diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their life.
When caught in the first or second stages, almost 100% of those diagnosed will survive for five years or more after their diagnosis. However, once the cancer reaches its third stage, the survival rate for five years or more after diagnosis reduces to 95%. The chances of survival rapidly decrease upon reaching stage four, with only 50% of men surviving for five years or more after their diagnosis.
Therefore, early detection is crucial. The symptoms to look out for include:
- Urinating more frequently
- Nocturia – getting up in the night to pass urine
- Difficulty passing urine – for example, straining when starting to urinate, not completely emptying your bladder, and passing urine at a weaker flow
- Urgency – struggling to control urination
- Blood in your urine or semen
- Difficulty in getting or maintaining an erection
Some of these symptoms can be caused by the inflammation of the prostate (prostatitis) rather than prostate cancer. Despite this, you should still book an appointment with your GP if any of the above symptoms present themselves.
Prostate cancer myths
There are many myths surrounding male cancer, particularly when it comes to prostate cancer. However, these myths are untrue, and this Movember, we aim to debunk three of the most popular misunderstandings about prostate cancer.
- Myth 1 - A PSA blood test is unnecessary if I feel healthy and don’t have symptoms of prostate cancer – in the earliest stages of prostate cancer, symptoms often do not present themselves. Men over the age of 45 are more at risk of developing prostate cancer, and any man over 50 years old can request a PSA test from their GP.
- Myth 2 - A high PSA level means you have prostate cancer – a high PSA doesn’t automatically mean you have prostate cancer. Instead, it could be due to urine infections, prostate inflammation, benign prostate enlargement, diet or lifestyle factors. Other tests following a PSA test will always be carried out to determine the cause of a high PSA level.
- Myth 3 - Only older men get prostate cancer – although prostate cancer primarily affects men over 50 and your risk does increase with age, younger men can still be diagnosed with the disease. If you are a male over 45 and you're experiencing symptoms of prostate cancer or your father or brother has had prostate cancer in the past, please book an appointment with a GP.
Other rare types of male-specific cancers
Testicular cancer is less common than prostate cancer, with over 2,000 men in the UK diagnosed every year, as reported by Cancer Research UK. The outlook for testicular cancer is one of the best for all cancers, with nearly 100% of men surviving the disease. Typically, over 95% of men will survive for one or more years after their diagnosis, 95% will survive for five or more years after being diagnosed, and 90% will survive for ten or more years after their diagnosis.
The chances of survival are much greater when cancer is detected early. Men should perform self-examination on their testicles at least once a month.
The symptoms of testicular cancer to look out for are:
- A lump or swelling in one testicle
- A testicle that gets bigger
- A heavy scrotum
- Pain or discomfort in your scrotum or testicle
- A change in the texture of the testicles
Most testicular lumps will not be cancerous, but it is still important to contact your GP if you develop one or more of the above symptoms, especially if they are persistent or don’t improve.
Penile cancer is a rare form of cancer, affecting just under 700 men in the UK per year, as reported by Cancer Research UK. Due to its rarity, there are no UK wide statistics available for penile cancer survival by stage. However, one hospital assessed their penile cancer survival rates between 2000 and 2011 and discovered the following:
- More than 90% of men with penile cancer that has not spread to nearby lymph nodes will survive for five years or more after their diagnosis
- Nearly 75% of men with penile cancer that has spread to one lymph node in the groin will survive for five years or more after their diagnosis
- Roughly 60% of men with penile cancer that has spread to several groin lymph nodes or lymph nodes in both groins will survive for five or more years after their diagnosis
- Just under 35% of men with penile cancer that has spread to lymph nodes in one or both sides of the pelvis, or the cancer cells have grown into surrounding tissues, survive for five or more years after their diagnosis
The above figures indicate that early detection is vital to survival, and so the following symptoms need to be identified as soon as possible:
- A sore or growth on the penis
- Bleeding from the penis
- A foul-smelling discharge
- A rash on the penis
- Phimosis – difficulty in drawing back the foreskin
- A change in colour in the penis or foreskin
The above symptoms may indicate other medical conditions such as sexually transmitted diseases and don't necessarily mean you have penile cancer. However, if you have one or more of these symptoms, you should book an appointment with your GP.
Diagnosing male-specific cancer
Depending on how your symptoms present themselves, your doctor will likely carry out at least one of the following:
- Blood tests
- Prostate examination
- MRI scan
- Ultrasound scan
- CT scan
- Bone scans
- PET scan
- Orchidectomy (testicle removal)
Across the Rutherford Cancer Centres network, we house some of the most sophisticated and accurate diagnostic imaging equipment available. We can offer rapid and flexible appointments for a range of medical conditions. If you have any health and wellness concerns due to any of the symptoms mentioned above, don't hesitate to contact us today.
Male-specific cancer support
Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be a traumatic experience that severely affects a person’s life and wellbeing. Here at the Rutherford Cancer Centres, we are aware of these effects and do all we can to support our patients physically, mentally, and emotionally. Macmillan Cancer Support is also available to offer advice and guidance to cancer patients and their loved ones.
If you recognise any signs of male cancers in your body, it’s vital that you make an appointment with your GP. For information regarding male-specific cancer diagnoses, treatment, and support available at the Rutherford Cancer Centres, or to discuss a referral from your GP, please get in touch with us.
Sources: Movember, Cancer Research UK