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MensObserved in November, the ‘Movember Movement’ aims to raise awareness about prostate and testicular cancer. The Movement calls for men of all ages to grow their ‘mo’ (slang for moustaches) during November. The online ‘mo’ community has recently been more active than ever and men (including many celebrities) the world over have been growing their moustaches and posting their photos on social media to raise awareness about the cancers that affect them.

The good news is that these cancers are relatively easy to treat if caught in the early stages; unfortunately, most of my patients have no awareness about them.

Take for example Mr Ali, a robust 68 year-old. He had ‘felt’ a lump in his testicular region a few months ago, but had not paid much attention to it. He came to me suffering from severe lower back pain, heaviness in his lower abdomen and was coughing blood-tinged sputum. I prescribed laboratory tests and an ultrasonogram which revealed a tumour that had spread to the lungs. I recommended chemotherapy and a second consultation with an oncologist. I also told him that had he come to me as soon as he had felt the lump, all this could have been prevented. Thankfully, Mr Ali did recover, which is why I advise all my male patients to examine themselves every month and, more importantly, not to be embarrassed about talking to their physicians about problems ‘down there’.

The other culprit, prostate cancer, starts with urinary problems and abdominal muscle spasms, incorrectly believed to only affect men above 50.

Mr Salman, a 30 year old patient, came to me saying that he thought he had a urine infection. Lab tests revealed, to his disbelief, that it was prostate cancer. His reaction was that “I’m too young! It’s impossible.”

I told him what I tell all my patients: “annual rectal examinations along with PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) are recommended for people with a family history of cancer. Sensible eating (fresh fruit and vegetables), daily exercise and regular physician consultations go a long way in keeping you healthy and fit.”

– Dr Tariq Sohail
The writer works at the Dow University of Health Sciences and Civil Hospital, Karachi.

First published in the Health Advertiser Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on November 9, 2014.