Noticed a little extra bristle on your man’s upper lip? It must be Movember, the time of the year when men all over the UK grow moustaches for 30 days to raise awareness and charity money for vital men’s health research and treatments.
Whether it’s a handlebar, Zapata or pencil moustache, it’s a much-needed reminder that, while women are generally aware of how to do simple health checks at home, men are not always so body-conscious. And while nothing beats a visit to the GP, learning how to do health checks at home could make all the difference when it comes to catching problems before they get out of control.
Here are six body-smart health checks boys and men should be doing regularly (at least monthly), so they get to know what feels right. Of course home tests don’t replace proper tests by a GP, so when it’s time to get checked out – see the doctor!
Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in men aged 25 to 49. It’s good for boys from puberty onwards to check themselves regularly so that they notice any changes, like lumps or swellings.
What to look for: he should try to get to know what’s normal for his body, so he can feel if anything has changed. You can find a detailed guide to checking for testicular changes here.
There are many reasons why men and boys might put on chest weight but it’s good for all boys and men to check here for lumps, too. Breast cancer in men is much more rare than in women (around 350-400 cases a year) and most lumps are harmless, but should still be checked with a GP.
What to look for: lumps in the breast area, and discharge from the nipples. If he finds a lump, he should go straight to the doctor – it might be nothing, but the longer he leaves it, the more dangerous it could be. By the time symptoms develop to bleeding nipples, a cancer can already be spreading.
Most men are barely aware of their prostate gland, yet prostate cancer is the most common form for men. It is more common in older men, and often won’t manifest any symptoms or even be diagnosed. However it is important to know what to look for – and not to fear a GP visit, because the cancer has an 80% survival rate.
What to look for: symptoms include a need to urinate often, especially at night; difficulty starting to urinate, straining while urinating, taking a long time to finish, pain during urination, and pain during sex. Less common symptoms include pain in the lower back and blood in the urine.
Weight and BMI
This is a really useful way for men to check if they’re a healthy weight or not, because it also takes into account height. It’s not a perfect measure – muscle can also account for a higher weight – but as a rough guide, being over the healthy BMI range can be an indicator of being at greater risk of serious health problems. You can help each other to stay fit by exercising together for moral support. Read our article Exercise together to stay together for some ideas.
What to look for: it’s easy to measure using the BMI online calculator. A normal weight is considered to be a BMI of 18.5-24.9, though this doesn’t necessarily take into account muscle mass, so there is some leeway.
Being aware of moles when they change colour or shape, or noticing new moles appear is an important part of staying healthy. Remind them that suncare is important when doing any outdoor activities, all year round. It’s not just for holidays!
What to look for: keep an eye on spots or sore – he should seek advice if they don’t heal within four weeks. Moles that change colour or shape, or appear for the first time, should also be monitored. Also note whether the skin has broken down and doesn’t heal within four weeks, or spots or sores become itchy, painful, scabbed, crusty or bleed. Read more at Read more at Cancer Research UK
Signs of stress
Feeling under pressure is a part of daily life, but prolonged or extreme stressful episodes can negatively affect relationships and the immune system, heart health and life expectancy.
What to look for: signs vary but can include eating or drinking more, feeling anxious and losing sleep, mood swings, being forgetful, feeling more withdrawn and losing interest in things he usually enjoys. Talking through problems can be a big help but seeking medical advice is essential if stress is affecting physical health.
Take the ‘Man MOT’
Even active men should check in with their GPs once in a while, even if it takes a little gentle persuasion. Ask at your surgery if it offers a men’s health clinic to check blood pressure, cholesterol and carry out blood tests for concerns like prostate cancer.
• If you want to persuade your son or other half to book an appointment, call it an MOT and it won’t sound quite so wussy!
• Keep it sporty. If good health is linked to sporting achievement (eating well to be in better shape for five-a-side football in the park, for example), it helps boys and men to see wellbeing as a positive goal, not a chore.
• Support him whatever’s going on. We might laugh about ‘man flu’, but you need to be ready to empathise, whether he’s only got worries or there’s an actual issue.
• Get free advice. If you’re worried about your son or partner, talk to your doctor and find out if there are other ways to help get them the treatment they need.
Men’s health issues vary greatly depending on age. For a wide range of advice, check out the NHS Men’s Health pages.
TIP: If your other half is going for the moustachioed look, give him a hand by introducing him to the Gillette Fusion Pro-Glide Styler, a precision razor that will help him round those tricky moustache shapes. You can find more tips on moustache-growing in our article Moustache must-haves.
What do you think of Movember? Is it an eyesore or a great way to remind men about their health? We’d love to hear your thoughts.