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

November 17th, 2022 | 8 min. read

By Dr. Spencer Richlin

During the month of November, you may see some men growing out beards and mustaches in support of “Movember.” But what is Movember, and what exactly are we raising awareness for? Let's talk about it!

In this article:

What is Movember?

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

Here are three of the top health issues facing men that Movember focuses on:

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

These are the "Big 3" men’s health concerns that often go unchecked, so Movember's goal is to reduce stigma and increase conversations around these important topics to save lives. While those who identify as men can of course be affected by other diseases (heart disease, we’re looking at you), these three major issues impact the men in our lives most frequently.

Let's explore why that is - and how to catch any problems early.

#1 Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men. One in nine men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. 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 essential! 

Risk factors to look out for include urinary or sexual function changes. Even if you’re not experiencing these issues, you can 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 age 40. 

Don't hesitate to ask your doctor about obtaining a PSA test if you have concerns prior to age 40 or want to learn more about preventing or catching prostate cancer.

#2 Testicular Cancer 

Testicular cancer is the most common diagnosed cancer in young men in the United States. The lifetime chance of testicular cancer 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.”

Similar 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 Movember says, know thy nuts). Seventy percent of men have never even examined their own testicles!

How to Check Yourself

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 second and third fingers and thumb to get an understanding of the texture and size of your testicles.

If you notice a mass or lump, a change in size, or experience any pain, contact your doctor ASAP.

Understand Your Risks & Options

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 include 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. 

Want to learn more? Read:

Top 7 Men's Health & Fertility Tips

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. And thankfully, preparing a couple of samples does not add much time to your treatment timeline.

Finding Support for Men's Health

For those of us who are reproductive endocrinologists and work at a fertility practice, we understand that going through 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 specialized resources we offer, such as support groups specifically for men and couples going through fertility struggles, and a vast online database of educational information, including an entire section dedicated to men’s health!

We are here to connect with the partner who isn’t able to be there for every appointment, the man who is struggling with his health and trying to preserve his fertility before cancer treatment, and the single-dad-to-be who is fighting through this alone.

Whatever your situation, your fertility clinic should support you every step of the way. 

How to Take Action

One of the things we talk about often with our patients who are trying to conceive is making positive lifestyle and nutrition adjustments (i.e. eating healthier, maintaining a healthy weight, reducing alcohol intake, etc).

These tips are not just for people who identify as women! These tips are universal.

As a fertility specialist, I suggest each man take these same steps towards being the healthiest person possible before trying to conceive. We even have a free 90-Day Preconception Guide to help support you and your partner (if you have one) prepare for a healthy pregnancy and baby. 

#3 Men's Mental Health

The Movember movement also works to bring awareness to men’s mental health issues during the month of November (and all year-round). Why? Take a look at these alarming facts:

  • Worldwide, one man dies by suicide every minute of every day
  • Three out of every four deaths by suicide are men 

Knowing these statistics, Movember’s goal is to reduce stigma and prevent male suicide. They do this by encouraging social connections and reducing the stigma around mental health. Establishing social networks of friends and family and promoting more open communication with one another can go a long way when it comes to mental health, and I encourage you to prioritize connection and communication in your own life.

Also, remember that there are always resources to help if you are in crisis:

Additionally, there are many apps and online services to help you get support from therapists and other mental health professionals without even leaving your home.

For those who aren’t currently in need of support, remember, you can be the support. Reach out to the men in your life and be a friend, a sounding board, a resource. We can all help further Movember's cause together.

Learn everything you need to know:

The Ultimate Men's Health Glossary

5 Ways to Take Care of Yourself

  1. Time. Spend quality time with the people who make you feel good.
  2. Connection. Have real, authentic conversations and talk to those people about things that are bothering you.
  3. Screening. Talk to your doctor about how you can detect prostate issues early!
  4. Nut knowledge. Check your own testicles regularly, and get to know your nuts. If you feel a change, call your doctor right away - don't put it off.
  5. Movement. In a nutshell (pun intended)...just move more! Whether that’s making a point to do one exercise activity per day, walk outside during your lunch break, or park farther away in the parking lot to get those steps in, any movement is good movement! Activity is great for the body as well as the mind.

Movember is a great time to do whatever we can to support men and their physical and mental health. What starts out as itchy stubble can grow into an expansive, important conversation that will change lives.

More Men's Health Resources

Dr. Spencer Richlin

Dr. Spencer Richlin is Surgical Director and a Partner in reproductive endocrinology at Illume Fertility. 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 Illume Fertility since 2004.