PREVENTING CANCER BY GROWING YOUR MOUSTACHE

I can’t help but tell you the story on how I discovered Movember month and it involves some colleagues. Urologists, doctors who deal with water works, are a unique breed of people. These are very pleasant people with impeccable manners, have an air of community in their interactions with each other and are extra clean-shaven and smartly dressed. As oncologists we tend to have regular interactions due to shared cancer patients and so on. One November during the years of my post graduate training, this clean-shaven reputation took a dive when I walked into a room full of urologists for our weekly combined clinic and it was easily noticeable that all of them had moustaches. I shrugged it off as maybe it was their new ‘thing’ or possibly a busy week and they had no time to shave.

The following week these moustaches were still there, longer, trimmed in all sorts of ways. I think I could even see some on the female urologists! I was then compelled to ask what was happening and if it had anything to do with exams. The final exams of fellowship are so hard that I think if our professors told us to stand on our heads for five minutes everyday in order to pass we probably would.

Anyway, that is how I got to learn about Movember month. ‘Mo’ is slang for moustache in Australian-English and a group in Adelaide, South Australia, coined the concept of growing a moustache for charity in the month of November calling it Movember. In 2004 an unrelated group in Melbourne, Victoria organised an event where 30 men would grow their moustache for 30 days in order to raise awareness for prostate cancer and depression in men. This movement went on to establish the Movember Foundation and it has spread across the continents raising over millions of dollars worldwide. Testicular cancer and suicide prevention have since been incorporated into this noble cause.

The grand idea is to start conversations on issues are swept under the carpet. The first step is to join in the movement on www.movember.com. Then you can start growing following the tips below. After that there are many ways of contributing by making a donation, asking for donations, hosting events and so on. The funds raised support world-class innovative men’s health projects. Just by creating awareness you are helping save lives.

Here are the tips to grow a Movember Moustache:

  1. Be prepared. Check out the different types of moustache and choose one that fits your face. Ideally you were supposed to start on November 1 with a clean-shaven face but its ok we will start on time next year.
  2. Be brave. The first few days and weeks may be uncomfortable as the ‘Mo’ takes shape. Ride it out and express this as much as you can to generate those donations!
  3. Ignore the itching. Think about the suffering prostate cancer patients. Men have endured worse. You can stand a little face tickle.
  4. Shape your moustache. Master the art of grooming your Mo
  5. Nurture it and keep it clean. Who says you can’t have a special brush and comb for your Mo. Some manvanity is allowed here. Look after your Mo and your Mo will look after you.

Prostate cancer is the number 1 cancer in men in Zambia today according to the updated global cancer registry. A fair proportion of men continue to present with disease that has already spread to other parts of the body more often than not the bones. This is a very sad reality as prostate cancer can be detected early by using two simple methods a blood test and digital rectal exam.

The blood test as many of you know is called PSA (prostate specific antigen). Usually a value under 4 ng/ml has everybody comfortable and happy but there are actually mean values for specific age groups that’s could increase this level of confidence.

Men younger than 50 should have a mean PSA value of less than 1, at 60 the average is 1 and above 65 1,5 ng/ml.

Ideally from the age of 40 -45 years every year a man should test his PSA annually. This allows us to catch an upward trend and intervene in a timely manner.

Prostate cancer usually presents itself as a nodule or hardening in the prostate so a digital rectal examination can be used to confirm the presence of the anomaly.

Caught early the chances of a man being cured if treated appropriately are high. And even if the cancer comes back, it is unlikely to be the cause of death. In general I am a sceptic about crowd sourcing for funding but the impact that such movements are having in improving outcomes globally is encouraging.

The other great thing about the Movember Moustache is it draws attention to other men’s health issues like depression, suicide and testicular cancer. I find this befitting as a diagnosis of prostate cancer and sometimes the effects of treatment such as impotence can be quite isolating leading to depression.

I am so proud to be a Zambian over and above any challenges we face as a country because we have a solid society. So let’s continue raising the voice against cancer and kick it out of our country. Be the change you want to see.

In the coming weeks I shall touch on other cancers that share the month of November such as lung cancer and pancreatic cancer.

 

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