It’s time to talk about men’s mental health. Mental health is not commonly discussed among men, including within doctors’ offices. The notion that men can...
Men, your nuts and your feelings… yup, we are going there.
The month of November has become recognized for bringing awareness to common men’s health issues. Health issues that are unique to men include testicular cancer, prostate cancer and benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH). While the gains from this awareness campaign has led to many positive outcomes for prostate health, testicular cancer and men’s mental health issues have yet to receive the same amount of attention. It’s surprising but many men still don’t know what testicular cancer is and taking about a man’s emotions or feelings is still considered a taboo topic. So, this month we wanted to shed some light on these two important men’s health topics.
Listen up men, your nuts play an important role in your health. The testicles, also known as the testes are part of the male reproductive system. They are contained in the scrotal sac and function to produce important sexual hormones such as testosterone. The testes are also responsible for sperm cell production.
Testicular cancer, although considered a rare type of cancer, is the most common cancer in males between the ages of 15 and 35 years[i]. According to the Canadian Cancer Society an estimated 1,150 Canadian men will be diagnosed with testicular cancer this year alone.[ii]
Testicular cancer occurs when the cells within the testicles undergo abnormal changes and these cells replicate uncontrollably. The exact cause of these changes still remains unknown. However, scientists have identified several risk factors that may contribute to a diagnoses, these include having an undescended testicle, family history of testicular cancer, HIV infection, being 20-34 years of age, and of white race.[iii] Symptoms of testicular cancer include a new lump or enlargement of either testicle, sensation of pain, heaviness or achiness in the scrotum, and collection of fluid within the scrotum. While self-examination is not always warranted, notifying your doctor if you feel or notice something different with your dangly bits can help with early detection and treatment.
Testicular cancer usually only affects one testicle rather than both. In Canada, the 5 year net survival for testicular cancer is 97%. In general, the earlier it is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome.[iv] It is considered a highly treatable type of cancer and treatment options range from surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy. In most cases, surgically removing the affected testicle is the treatment of choice. Since testicles are critical for sperm production, young men who are given a diagnosis of testicular cancer are undoubtedly worried about their fertility. However, a single testicle can still produce adequate amounts of sperm so a man’s ability to have their own biological children and maintain fertility is minimally impacted if detected early.
So men, check on those nuts regularly and check in with your doctor if you are concerned or want to learn more about your manly junk.
Mental health and suicide:
Would it surprise you to know that men dying by suicide has become much more common than prostate cancer deaths[v]? With early detection, more awareness, research and treatments in place, prostate cancer has come a long way. However, the incidence of suicide in men consistently remains high. Suicide is almost four times more likely in men than women[vi]. So, what’s really going on here? Research looking at depression among men and women have reported that women tend to have better coping strategies when dealing with stress. Women are more likely to seek support from friends, family and professionals for depression, grief, and mental health issues. To keep it simple, women tend talk about their feelings rather than suppress them. In contrast, men are told and unfortunately taught from a very young age to “suck it up” or “man up” when they express sadness, loss or hardship. This has engrained and normalized the division between being a man and mental health. Years of suppressing these emotions and feelings rather than addressing them have contributed to the drastic downfall of men’s mental health issues.
Men who do not seek support for their mental health may develop destructive coping strategies such as abusing alcohol, drugs, and engaging in risky behaviour as they continue to suppress their feelings and emotions. These behavioural changes can lead to social isolation, further worsening their mental health and unfortunately, can result in suicide.
So, what needs to change? Recognizing that it is healthy and normal for men to feel sad, talk about their feelings and openly discuss depression and suicide are vital to the survival of men’s health. Remember suicide is 100% preventable. Actively participating in awareness campaigns, donating to men’s health organizations or simply just asking your pal how he’s really feeling can contribute to significant change and possibly save a man’s life.
So, to all the men out there, let’s stop
with the small talk and let’s chat about how you really feel. Every man’s life
is worth it.
[i] Mayo Clinic. Testicular Cancer. April 24, 2020. Accessed from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/testicular-cancer-care/symptoms-causes/syc-20352986 on Oct 23, 2020.
[ii] Canadian Cancer Society. Testicular cancer statistics. 2020. Accessed from: https://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-type/testicular/statistics/?region=on on Oct 23, 2020.
[iii] American Cancer Society. Risk factors for testicular cancer. 2020. Accessed from: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/testicular-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/risk-factors.html on Oct 23, 2020.
[iv] Canadian Cancer Society. Survival statistics for testicular cancer. 2020. Accessed from: https://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-type/testicular/prognosis-and-survival/survival-statistics/?region=on on Oct 23, 2020.
[v] Olson R. Centre for suicide prevention. Men and Suicide. Accessed from: https://www.suicideinfo.ca/resource/menandsuicide/ on Nov 2, 2020.
[vi] National Institute of Mental Health. Suicide. September 2020. Accessed from: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/suicide.shtml on Nov 2, 2020.
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