The clocks have changed, the leaves are turning and autumn is hitting its stride. It can only mean one thing: Movember is coming.
Yes, you read that right. The charity that supports men’s health issues each year renames November to encourage men of all ages to grow a mo, have your mates sponsor your and raise awareness of and money for male health charities.
It has supported prostate and testicular cancer charities since it launched here in 2007, and this year it is adding mental health causes.
Prostate cancer is of particular note to those in their 50s, as the risk increases with age; testicular cancer affects younger men in general.
But growing a mo isn’t just for cool kids, says Movember founder JC (Justin Coghlan): men of all ages can get involved. “Sons are doing it with their dads and the bosses at work are doing it because all the young guys are.
Men are bad at talking about or actively doing something about their health. They say ‘I’ll get to that later’ and it never happens
“With more than 40,000 men in the UK getting diagnosed with prostate cancer in that [older] category a year, there are a lot of guys growing mos for their mates.”
Last year, Daniel Craig, 46, grew a mo for Movember, in a break from his clean-shaven James Bond image. George Clooney, 53, tried out the hairy upper lip look in 2009.
The charity hopes that encouraging men to grow moustaches will start conversations about health. More than four million people have been involved worldwide since it launched in Australia 11 years ago.
Men unwilling to go to their doctor
Men can be more hesitant than women to go to the doctor if they are worried something is wrong, and getting men to talk about their bodies is a problem all over the world, says JC.
“We are across 21 countries and men are the same everywhere. We started this in 2003 and you could literally go into a bar, missing one arm, and no one would ask you what had happened, it’d just be about getting another beer.
“Men are inherently bad at talking about or actively doing something. They say ‘I’ll get to that later’ and it never happens. My wife still forces me to go to the doctor and I’m in the health space.”
Now, having raised £345 million worldwide, Movember certainly has momentum and reach.
Changing moustache fashions sparked the idea
The movement started in Melbourne before Facebook and other social media had been invented.
“It was a Sunday afternoon session with my mates and we were talking about recurring fashions,” says JC. “The moustache had kind of vanished off the face of the earth.”
“We started talking about it and the fact that I had grown up with Magnum PI [played by Tom Selleck]. Einstein had an incredible moustache and so did Jimmy Hendrix, and our granddads were pretty much the only ones rocking their mos. So we gathered a few guys and started our moustache journey.”
Inspired by a friend’s mother who was fundraising for a breast cancer charity, they focused on prostate cancer.
They sent out an email with the subject line ‘Are you man enough to be my man?’ and got 30 mates to grow moustaches for AU$10 each. Now, around four million ‘mo bros’ and ‘mo sistas’ have supported the campaign.
Prostate cancer diagnosis
One of them is Simon Lord, 54, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2010.
“My father had benign prostate enlargement in his early 60s, so I was aware of the problems the prostate can cause older men,” he says.
The test revealed a higher than normal PSA, the protein that prostate cells produce (although a higher PSA does not necessarily mean cancer is present).
After his cancer was confirmed, Simon opted to have his prostate removed by robotic assisted surgery, a type of keyhole surgery where the surgeon operates a mechanical set of tools from a computer.
But that was not without its stumbling blocks. After Simon’s first PSA test, his GP did not contact him to give him the results. Instead, he found out in an appointment for a sore foot five months later.
Then, after finding his specialist unhelpful and unsupportive, opted for a private consultation, followed by surgery on the NHS.
Incredibly, 16 weeks after his surgery, Simon ran the Bath Half Marathon in one hour 48 minutes. He has now been free of cancer for four years, and is growing his fifth mo this Movember.
He emphasises the need to follow up on tests. “Seek professional advice and support. The sooner you are investigated and receive treatment if it is needed, the better and faster you will be able to move on.”
Are you at risk of prostate cancer?
• The older a man is, the more likely he is to be diagnosed
• A man with a father or brother who developed prostate cancer before 60 is twice as likely to get it
• There is an increased occurrence in black African and Afro-Caribbean men
• A poor diet and lack of exercise can contribute
The possible symptoms
The majority of prostate cancers have no symptoms, so the advice, if you think you are in an at-risk group, is to have a PSA blood test. It is only really advanced cancer that has spread that cause symptoms such as:
• Urinary issues including slow flow and frequency
• Blood in the urine or semen
• Reduced ability to get an erection
• Painful ejaculation
If you have any of these, contact your doctor. The symptoms above are common to many different conditions.
Growing a moustache for Movember UK: the rules
If you want to grow a mo (or even a High50Mo – geddit?) there are some rules you must follow:
• Start with a clean-shaven face on 1 November and sign up at Movember.com
• Grow the mo. No beards or goatees allowed
• Talk about it, men’s health, and why you’re growing a mo
• Get your friends to donate
Movember has launched True NTH to support men with prostate cancer, whatever stage of diagnosis or treatment they are at, to make sure that they get access to good care and support, wherever they are being treated.