Movember is so much more than just a moustache. It’s about challenging gender norms, supporting and encouraging men through hard times, and a lot more.
Gender Norms and Men’s Health
‘Real men don’t back down from a fight’… ‘Strong but silent’… ‘men don’t cry’… ‘she’ll be right mate’… the pressure to conform to stereotypes like these can have detrimental effects, not only on a man’s sense of self and close relationships, but also on his personal health. Men often don’t feel comfortable talking about their health, be it mental or physical, and as a result don’t reach out for support in difficult times. Evidence suggests that men are less likely to talk about their problems and ask for help, have a higher suicide rate despite women being more prone to depression, and more likely to avoid going to the doctor.
Grow a Mo for a Bro
This is where Movember comes in.
Like many great ideas, Movember was conceived by a couple of mates having a couple of beers – in this case, the Gypsy bar in Fitzroy, Australia. Travis Garone and Luke Slattery wanted a month to flaunt their favourite form of facial hair – the humble moustache, which had all but disappeared from popular fashion at the time. In choosing to tie it to men’s health, specifically mental health, suicide prevention and cancer awareness – a suggestion by a friend’s Mum, they found a worthy cause, and persuaded 30 friends to grow a mo in support of what they called ‘Mo-vember’.
15 years on, Movember is now a global movement with close to 6 million ‘Mo Brothers’ and ‘Mo Sisters’ across 20 participating countries including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Hong Kong, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and USA.
Movember and Men’s Health
Movember encourages husbands, fathers, brothers, family and friends to be more aware of, and open about, the risks to men’s physical and emotional health. With the over-arching aim being to help men live long and healthy lives, Movember is also about men setting goals, getting active, and doing something beneficial for themselves while supporting the Movember foundation in their work uniting the brightest minds and funding game changing studies and health projects around the world.
In 2004, Movember helped raise NZ$57,618 which went to fund 6 men’s health projects. Since then Movember has successfully raised over NZ$1 billion which has helped fund 1,250 men’s health projects.
Movember and Bladder Cancer
While traditionally not one of Movember’s focal points, bladder cancer takes around 1,700 male lives annually in New Zealand and Australia - primarily among over 55s - and is three times more common in men than women, suggesting a need for greater awareness of the disease during the month. When bladder cancer is diagnosed at an early stage it is often highly treatable, so early detection is crucial.
What is Bladder Cancer?
A tumour that spreads from the lining of the bladder (also known as the transitional epithelium).
Transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) or Urothelial carcinoma (UC) is the most common type of bladder cancer, accounting for 95% of cancers. Within this group there are two subtypes:
- Papillary carcinoma: finger like projections that grow out into the center of the bladder but the tumour may also penetrate the bladder lining and adjacent connective tissue, muscle, and outer layer of fat surrounding the bladder, before spreading (metastasising) to other parts of the body.
- Carcinoma in situ (CIS): Pancake like tumours confined to the surface layer of the bladder but dangerous in that they’re aggressive and likely to spread quickly.
The aggressiveness of a particular cancer is known as its grade, and relates to the behaviour of the cancer cells themselves. Grade 3 cancer cells grow at a higher rate than grade 1 and are more likely to come back after a treatment and penetrate to the deeper muscle tissue surrounding the bladder.
What are the Symptoms of Bladder Cancer?
While the very early stages of bladder cancer may not present any discernible symptoms, the continuing growth of the tumour will present noticeable signs. The most common symptom to look out for is blood in your urine or haematuria – if you see red, see your GP immediately. Other symptoms include pain while urinating; an increased frequency, or difficulty with, urinating; and an increase in the feeling of urgency to urinate.
Just because you have these symptoms does not mean you have bladder cancer. However, you should certainly tell your GP about them. A visit to the doctor will help provide clarity.
What Increases the Risk of Bladder Cancer?
The causes of bladder cancer are not always clear and, in some cases, people with bladder cancer have no associated risk factors. It does pay to be mindful of triggers though. Below are some of the general risk factors have been associated with most cases of bladder cancer.
- Being a man
- Increasing age
- Being Caucasian
- Use of tobacco and smoking
- Exposure to certain chemicals in the workplace
- Past radiation exposure
- Parasitic infection
- Persistent irradiation of the bladder lining
- Previous cancer treatment
- Personal or family history of cancer
Is Bladder Cancer Treatable?
The invasiveness (stage) and aggressiveness (grade) of the tumour will affect treatment options. Based on these factors, a single or a combination of treatments may include:
- Chemotherapy for the bladder
- Chemotherapy for the whole body
- Surgery to remove the affected tissue
- Removal of the bladder and reconstruction of a new path for the urine to exit the body
- Radiation therapy
When it comes to the treatment of bladder cancer, early detection makes more options possible and it will be more likely that the treatment prevents the cancer from advancing.
How is Bladder Cancer Diagnosed?
In the early stages of bladder cancer, diagnosis can occur in several ways. Some patients may actively seek help after noticing blood in their urine or other symptoms. Others might present no symptoms but discover signs of bladder cancer during urinalysis as part of a routine medical exam.
Many tests can provide the information needed to confirm or rule out a bladder cancer diagnosis. If your doctor thinks you might have bladder cancer, he or she may use one or more of the following tests:
- Physical examination and medical history: Your doctor will look for, and record, any symptoms or risk factors of bladder cancer that you have. Risk factors of particular interest could include whether or not you have a family history of bladder cancer and whether your occupation has exposed you to any chemicals linked to bladder cancer.
- Urine tests: Your doctor may also use simple, non-invasive urine tests to check for the presence of blood or cancer cells in your urine. Urine tests used to detect or rule out bladder cancer include urinalysis, urine culture and urine cytology, which involves looking for cancer cells under a microscope. All of these tests require a small urine sample for examination.
- Urine molecular diagnostic tests: A cutting edge urine-based test - such as Cxbladder – looks at molecular biomarkers in your pee. Levels of these biomarkers show, with high accuracy, your probability of having bladder cancer.
- Ultrasound: This scanning test uses a microphone to bounce sound waves off body structures and get a picture. Ultrasound checks for blockages in the tubes (the ureters) connecting your kidneys and bladder.
- Cystoscopy: In this diagnostic test, a doctor will place a thin tube and camera (cystoscope) into your urethra to see inside your bladder. A tissue sample (biopsy) may be taken from your bladder and then looked at under a microscope to confirm the presence of cancer cells.
- Computed tomography (CT) scan: A scanning machine, like an X-ray machine, gets pictures of your upper urinary tract, abdomen and pelvis.
- Intravenous pyelogram (IVP): This test, sometimes called an intravenous urogram, is a general X-ray examination to look at your whole urinary system.
To quickly detect bladder cancer in its early stages, ask your Doctor about Cxbladder. Cxbladder is an accurate and easy-to-use molecular diagnostic test that helps rule out bladder cancer in patients with blood in urine. With one urine sample, Cxbladder can give you confidence, reassurance and peace of mind.
Cxbladder is publicly funded in a number of regions around New Zealand. It’s also available to buy online.
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