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Movember & Men’s Health Awareness | More Than a Mustache Blog Feature
Dr. Spencer Richlin

By: Dr. Spencer Richlin on November 30th, 2020

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Movember & Men’s Health Awareness | More Than a Mustache

cancer | Fertility Preservation | men's health | Mental Health

During the month of November you may see many of those around you growing out beards and mustaches in support of “Movember.” But what exactly is that raising awareness for?

November is a time to raise awareness for men’s health, and the prevention, screening, and treatment of some issues that impact those who identify as men. Movember is one of the leading charities geared towards men’s health, leading the charge in focusing research efforts and raising awareness. 

They have prioritized 3 health issues facing men which are:

  1. Prostate cancer
  2. Testicular cancer
  3. Mental health

These are the men’s health Big 3 - while people who identify as men can be affected by other diseases (heart disease, we’re looking at you), these three issues impact the men in our lives in particular.

Prostate Cancer - Prevention and Testing

Prostate cancer is the 2nd most common cancer in men. One in nine men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer over the course of their lifetimes. When diagnosed early, there is a 98% survival rate. If prostate cancer is detected late, only 26% survive. Like many other cancers, early detection is important! 

Risk factors to look out for include urinary or sexual function changes. Even if you’re not experiencing these issues, speak to your doctor and obtain a PSA (prostate specific antigen) blood test. This is a very important screening test. Many men have their first PSA drawn at 40.

Testicular Cancer 

Testicular cancer is the most common diagnosed cancer in young men in the United States. The lifetime chance for men is about 1 in 270. Since many young men are at risk for testicular cancer, the Movember movement is really geared towards raising awareness that “this could impact you, too.” Similarly to breast cancer, self-checks at home can be key to prevention and early detection. The best prevention is monthly palpation of your testicles (as they say, know thy nuts). Seventy percent of men have never examined their testicles.

Here’s how to do it:

In the shower, under warm water, do a self-exam. See if you notice anything different, and be comfortable knowing what your own body feels like. Palpate each testicle between your 2nd/3rd fingers and thumb to get an understanding of the texture and size of your testicles. If you notice a mass lump, change in size, or experience any pain, contact your doctor ASAP.

The high risk factors for testicular cancer are a family history of testicular cancer and having an undescended testicle. While treatment is effective and the survival rate is good (95%), these treatments can have long-term effects on your future life & fertility. Treatment options for testicular cancer includes surgery and or chemotherapy. As a Reproductive Endocrinologist & Infertility (REI) specialist, my hope is that anyone moving forward with these treatment options have the chance to preserve their fertility before treatment. 

Family Building for Men

Preserving Fertility After a Cancer Diagnosis

Chemotherapy or surgery can affect your future sperm production in a significant way. I want guys in their teens or twenties who might be diagnosed with this cancer to know this: even if you’re not thinking about your future family, this could impact you. Remember, freeze your sperm before treatment.

What does fertility preservation for men look like? Freezing sperm is a safe and effective way to preserve your fertility for years to come. Frozen sperm can be thawed and used in the IVF laboratory safely, even after years of being cryopreserved. Freezing sperm is a simple process. Preparing a couple of samples does not add much time to your treatment timeline.

General Support for Men's Health

For those of us who are REI’s and work at a fertility practice, we understand that your fertility treatment can be a frustrating and a complicated time. It’s not just about the ladies. We support all of our patients, no matter who they are or how they identify. There are many support resources we offer to our patients, such as support groups for men, support groups for couples, and a vast online database of resources, including an entire men’s health section

One of the things we talk about to help our patients become pregnant is making lifestyle and nutrition adjustments (eating healthier, maintaining a healthy weight, reducing your alcohol intake, etc). These tips are not just for the people who identify as women! These tips are universal. As an REI, I suggest the men take these same steps toward a health preconception approach.

We are here to connect with the husband who isn’t able to be there for every appointment, the man that is struggling with their health and trying to preserve their fertility, and the single-dad-to-be who is fighting through this alone. Whatever your situation, your REI will support you every step of the way. 

Don’t Forget About Your Mental Health 

The Movember movement also wishes to bring awareness to men’s mental health during this month. Why? Take a look at these alarming facts:

  • Worldwide, 1 man dies by suicide every minute of every day. 
  • Three out of every four suicides are men. 

Knowing these numbers, Movember’s goal is to reduce and prevent male suicide. They plan to do that by encouraging social connections and reducing the stigma of mental health. 

So, what can we do, especially during this time of COVID-19? Establish virtual, social networks, promote more open communication with one another, and remember, there are always resources to help:

Additionally, there are apps and online services to help you get support without leaving your home, desk, or other comfort zone. For those who aren’t looking for support, remember, you can be the support. Reach out to the men in your life and be a friend, a sound board, a resource. We can all help the Movember cause, even in this time of social distancing.

5 Tips to Take Care of Yourself and the Men in Your Life During Movember

  1. Time. Spend time with people who make you feel good.
  2. Connection. Have real conversations and talk to those people about things that are bothering you.
  3. Screening. Talk to your doctor about prostate screening
  4. Nut Knowledge. Check your own testicles regularly, and know your nuts. if you feel a change, call your doctor. 
  5. Movement. Move More! Whether that’s making a point to do one exercise activity per day, go walk outside during your lunch break, or park farther away in the parking lot to get those steps in. Activity is good for the body and for the mind.

Movember is our month to do whatever we can to support men and their health. What starts as itchy stubble can grow into an expansive, growing, important conversation that may change lives.

About Dr. Spencer Richlin

Dr. Spencer Richlin is Surgical Director and a Partner in reproductive endocrinology at Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut (RMACT). In addition, he is Division Chief of Reproductive Endocrinology at Norwalk Hospital. Dr. Richlin is Board Certified in both Reproductive Endocrinology and Obstetrics / Gynecology. Dr. Richlin has been with RMACT since 2004.