Come on guys – take action!News
Posted by: The Probe 4th November 2020
November is Mouth Cancer Action Month and it goes without saying that dental hygienists and dental therapists are supporting this campaign. It is likely that your practice will be going above and beyond to help raise awareness and hopefully reduce the thousands of new mouth cancer cases that are diagnosed every year. Although 88 percent of British adults have now heard of mouth cancer, there is still serious work to be done regarding awareness of the signs, symptoms and risk factors.[i] Looking at the stats, men seem to spot early signs of mouth cancer much less often than women – sadly, the disease is twice as common in males.[ii] This follows a rather disturbing pattern when it comes to men’s health.
A question of caring?
As dental professionals know, women are more likely to visit the dental practice than men and, traditionally, women tend to be the healthcare advocates and appointment makers in most households. Women and girls also generally seek more help and advice from their peers, magazines, books and other resources, while men might prefer to manage alone. [iii]
There is a myth that men simply don’t care about their health. However, men are quite well informed when it comes to aspects like healthy eating and fitness. One of the challenges regarding men’s health is their reluctance to seek medical attention. It has been recognised that men do not feel comfortable talking about their health concerns and there is a perception that others look down on men that consult a doctor for what they deem to be ‘minor’ symptoms.iii They are also less likely to engage in preventive screening for blood pressure or cholesterol, as well as regular eye or dental examinations, even though they are at greater risk of premature death than women.[iv] So, what can be done to encourage men to seek help or take action so that conditions can be detected earlier?
What can we do?
Fortunately, there are a number of initiatives out there. The NHS direct website, for example, provides a complete guide to symptoms and treatments for various conditions, alongside information on where to get help. There are also services such as primary care walk-in centres, pharmacies and information booths in shopping centres and supermarkets. Helplines may be particularly useful for some men as they offer increased confidentiality and anonymity. Certainly, the Impotence Association helpline receives tens of thousands of calls from men about erectile dysfunction, even though it may be a taboo subject in public.iii
Dental professionals can also offer tremendous support by promoting men’s health, raising awareness, providing education and advice about reducing health risks. You could also get involved with campaigns like Movember. Focused primarily on mental health and suicide prevention, prostate cancer and testicular cancer, Movember provides opportunities for men to take part in activities, along with the opportunity to have conversations and get support with issues that may be bothering them. To find out more, visit: https://uk.movember.com/ and see what you can do to encourage men to take action.
[i] Oral Health Foundation. State of Mouth Cancer UK Report 2019/2020. https://www.dentalhealth.org/Handlers/Download.ashx?IDMF=630bdca4-0634-44cd-b8dd-8dab7b6f4d0a [Accessed 18th August 2020]
[ii] Oral Health Foundation. News. Mouth Cancer case rise by 135% but an alarming number of us are unable to spot the early warning signs. November 2018. https://www.dentalhealth.org/news/mouth-cancer-cases-rise-by-135-but-an-alarming-number-of-us-are-unable-to-spot-the-early-warning-signs [Accessed 18th August 2020]
[iv] White A. et al. An examination of the association between premature mortality and life expectancy among men in Europe. European Journal of Public Health August 2014; 24(4) 673-679. https://academic.oup.com/eurpub/article/24/4/673/636800 [Accessed 18th August 2020]
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