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How overcoming pride and stigma can help improve men's health

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Did you know men can get breast cancer? Probably not, as while we are aware of more common male-specific cancers such as testicular cancer, the rarity and stigma of breast cancer in men lead to it being spoken about less.

Do you know how healthy you are? The answer is probably not. Not in medical terms anyway. Hopefully, this article will inform you on the topic of how to check your health and be more informed.

There are several issues which will be spoken about, ranging from cancer, fitness and body image. All these issues can affect men, and yet all of these issues are vulnerable to being ignored due to male insecurity or pride. Through this article, we hope to encourage all our readers to take their health seriously, overcoming any fear or pride in the process.  

According to Breast Cancer Now, a charity set up to support breast cancer patients, around 350 men are diagnosed with breast cancer every year in the UK. Although this seems high, the shocking truth is that over 50,000 women are diagnosed each year.

The difference in statistics for breast cancer in genders is part of the reason that male breast cancer isn’t regarded with as much care as women’s. Another factor that contributes to the lack of attention given to this serious issue is pride. The assumption that breast cancer is purely restricted to women may make it harder for men to come forward if they ever have to experience it themselves. There is a blog that a man called Roy has written for Breast Cancer Now where he discusses the struggles of having breast cancer as a man and encourages other men to come forward in supporting the cause.

Sexual predispositions like these make things harder for men to come forward about their health. This stigma needs to be lifted to make it easier and more comfortable for men to speak out about their health and address any issues they may be having.

One individual who tried to do this was Richard Roundtree, star of 1971’s Shaft, who admitted to getting his breast cancer diagnosis in 1993. Richard publically admitted in his book, which was published in 2009, that he "thought his doctor was questioning his manhood". 

Although testicular and prostate cancer are the most common kinds of cancer in males, there are plenty of checks that men can take to ensure they stay on top of their health. Shockingly, fewer than a third of men check themselves regularly. This is largely because they don’t know how to do so correctly. If this is you, pay attention to the following steps about how to check yourself, taken from the cancer research website

First of all, the best time to check your testicles is after a shower or bath. This is because this is when your skin is the most relaxed. You want to familiarise yourself with your own testicles so that it's easier for you to recognise any abnormalities. You are checking the size and weight as well as feeling for any lumps or swollen areas.

The things that cancer research would recommend seeing your doctor about are as follows:

  • an unusual lump or swelling in part of one testicle
  • a sharp pain in the testicle or scrotum
  • a heavy scrotum
  • an increase in the firmness or feel
  • an unusual difference between one testicle and the other
According to the NHS, adults between 19-64 should be doing at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as cycling or brisk walking per week. Additionally, they recommend strength exercises on two or more days of the week that work all the major muscles. If you weren’t clear, the ‘major muscles’ they are referring to are the legs, hips, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms.

While that sounds like a lot, breaking it down to a statistic like 22 minutes of walking a day will make it seem less daunting. Throw in two gym workouts a week and you’re sorted! Yet studies from Bristol university show that 80% of adults in the UK are failing to hit those targets.

In this day and age, we are constantly seeing adverts and sponsorships on Instagram and other social media platforms promoting unrealistic body images. Again, body image is an issue more commonly discussed amongst women, making it harder for men to come forward with such worries. Yet there are many men who suffer from such issues, and it is important to overcome misconceptions and stigma surrounding body image in order to help them.

Just like with women, men who advertise certain ways of looking good can hurt, rather than help, their followers. Indeed men with amazing bodies who give credit to protein shakes and power bars set unrealistic standards for other men. 

Basically, be yourself and don’t let anyone set the standards for you, but stay on top of your health too! We’re not always going to be able to follow the exercise recommendation from the NHS, but we can make small steps towards ensuring happy, healthy futures.

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