USA: NHB Raises Men’s Health Awareness

NHB Raises Men's Health Awareness

Naval Hospital Bremerton staff members grew mustaches during the month of November in recognition and support of men’s health awareness for the month of ‘Movember.’

The ‘Movember’ movement happens for the 30 days of November to increase not only awareness but also education on men’s health issues, specifically prostate and testicular cancer initiatives.

“I first heard about ‘Movember’ last year when I was with ISAF (International Security Assistance Force headquarters) in Kabul. All the Brits were doing it. It has obviously caught on here stateside. It is a valid movement. For years, the focus has been on women’s health and that has been really good to bring needed attention. This is also a good way to remind guys about their own health,” said Capt. David Congdon of NHB’s Family Medicine department.

Statistical evidence is there to back up the need for such an awareness campaign for men. Recent compiled data by the American Cancer Society (ACS) shows that there are more than 26,000 deaths in the U.S. yearly due to colon and rectal cancer. ACS also notes there are approximately 28,000 deaths attributed to prostate cancer.

“I grew my mustache because I needed to remind myself to get checked. It’s a great reminder every day,” said Lt. Dhonifranz C. Blasa, of NHB’s Multi-Service Ward.

Kristen B. Thorstenson, a registered nurse assigned to NHB’s Ambulatory Procedure Unit (APU) is one who readily noticed a number of men at the command growing mustaches in recognition of men’s health.

“I see Movember as an excellent way for us health care providers to break the ice with patients and colleagues about taking time to educate themselves about men’s health issues, especially in the area of prostate and testicular cancer,” said Thorstenson, noting that in APU there have been several male staff showcasing their mustache in honor of this month. “What has been exciting to me is being able to share and hear other staff members talk about Movember and what it represents. This is a great avenue to bring awareness by sharing it with patients, family members, or friends during their stay at APU.

“Movember is a ‘face to face’ opportunity to increase awareness of men’s health. Getting men to routinely go for regular health exams and perform their own scrotum self examination can be challenging. Women’s health for several decades has publically overshadowed men’s health. It has been the norm for women to go for their regular examinations and do self breast exams at home. There is continual focus for women via doctor offices, fundraisers, and speakers who have breast or cervical cancer. Now public awareness for men’s health is beginning to increase. The hope is it will also be year round,” said Thorstenson.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, men are 24 percent less likely than women to have visited a doctor within the past year and are 22 percent more likely to have neglected their cholesterol tests. Men are also 28 percent more likely than women to be hospitalized for congestive heart failure; 32 percent more likely than women to be hospitalized for long-term complications of diabetes and are more than twice as likely to have a leg or foot amputated due to complications related to diabetes. Additionally men are 24 percent more likely than women to be hospitalized for pneumonia that could have been prevented by getting an immunization.

Thorstenson attests that the importance of focusing on men’s health and wellness extends well beyond the month of mustache. Personal awareness for such wellness issues as hypertension, heart diseases, diabetes, colon cancer, hyperlipidemia, erectile dysfunction, proper diet, and adequate exercise are continual concerns.

“The earlier (that) all males can educate themselves in prevention and detection, the better the chance of decreasing chronic or long term complications,” Thorstenson said.

Yet colon, rectal and prostate cancer fatalities still trail lung cancer, which continues to be the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men with almost 88,000 fatalities on a yearly basis.

With the Movember movement overlapping the Great American Smokeout held Nov. 15, that closely related awareness campaign also helped focus on cancer danger, specifically caused by using tobacco products. According to Patrick W. Graves, Naval Hospital Bremerton Tobacco Cessation Facilitator, it’s not just smokers who need to be aware of the inherent danger, but also those who use chewing tobacco.

“Chewing tobacco is a dangerous concept with definite health risks,” said Graves. “When a person puts chewing tobacco into their mouth, they are instantly exposed to significant dangers such as oral cancer, pancreatic cancer, esophagus cancer, stomach cancer and colon cancer. A dip of chew has 28 cancer-causing carcinogens.”

NHB’s dental community also plays an active role in men’s health awareness in regard to cancerous carcinogens.

“Dentists frequently are the first healthcare providers to detect mouth and throat cancers. Common symptoms of oral cancer include: white, red or a mixture of white and red patches inside your mouth or on your lips; a sore on your lip or in your mouth that won’t heal; bleeding in your mouth; loose teeth; difficulty or pain when swallowing; a lump in your neck; or an earache,” explained Capt. Scott R. Peck, Branch Health Clinic Bangor Dental department.

“The bottom line is that smokeless tobacco is not a healthy alternative to smoking and increases the risk of cancer of the mouth, throat and pancreas as well higher rates of gum disease and tooth loss. Eight out of 10 people with mouth and throat cancers are tobacco users and 40 percent of the people diagnosed will not live more than five years after being diagnosed,” Peck added.

“Men, you should be proud to wear that mustache and taking the time to provide us recognition and awareness of Movember Men’s Health month. I know it has increased awareness in my work area to staff and others. I don’t know if your significant other has taken too well of your efforts, but I do want to thank you. The only thing that has bummed me out about growing a mustache is men in uniform not being able to put on mustache wax and let those handlebars curl,” stated Thorstenson.

Naval Today Staff, December 2, 2012; Image: NHB