Movember November


  • Ask Dr G
  • Sunday, 02 Nov 2014

I adore Emma Watson for playing Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series at the age of nine and her appointment as the United Nation Women Goodwill Ambassador fighting for gender equality. At the tender age of 24, no wonder this feminist is dubbed the “most flawless women of the decade”. 

Watson became the foremost faces of feminism in the world because of one thing: Passion. She believes in the movement she stands for. This is reflected in her powerful speech for the HeForShe campaign. “In my nervousness for this speech and my moment of doubt, I have told myself firmly, If not me, who? If not now, when?” She added: “It is time we all see gender as a spectrum instead of two sets of opposing ideals.” 

Although Watson is the prominent crusader for the feminist cause, on the other end of the spectrum, I feel equally passionate to voice the disparity in the status of healthcare for men. As a urologist, such disproportions in the provision of care in men and women’s issues can be quite glaring. I guess if not now, when? 

In the month of November, I feel compelled to do my small part to highlight issues that affect men. In the spirit of Movember November, I pledge to grow a moustache to get the conversation going about prostate cancer, lifestyle and male mental health. 

Although, my friends insisted Chinese men don't grow proper moustache, I am still confident the pathetic moustache plus passion will raise awareness and cash for the cause I believe passionately in. 

Hi Dr G, 

I read in the papers you are giving a talk in Kuala Lumpur and feel rather sad I am unable to attend. From the description in the newspaper, you will be addressing the issues of the discrepancy in the life expectancies in men and women.

I think this is an interesting subject, which has a very obvious answer. 

Women live longer than men because women look after themselves better than men. It does not need a genius to point out men take more risks in life. 

Statistically, men are more likely to display risky behaviour like driving fast cars and promiscuity. Men smoke and drink more. 

Men are more likely to eat unhealthily and harbour risk factors such as obesity; high cholesterol and hypertension that could result in cancer and cardiovascular disease. 

In reality, I think women are a stronger gender to deal with illnesses compared to men. This clearly has an impact on the longevity for women. 

From the title of your presentation, Men’s Health: Unzipped. I assume you will be talking about sex. Is the life expectancy in men related to sexual dysfunction? 

I hope for the benefit of those who are unable to attend your talk, you can shed some light on the issues. 

Good luck with the talk. 

Regards,

Maggie 

I think many would agree with the obvious self-inflicting nature of lifestyle in men that may drive them closer to the grave. Yes, the smoking, drinking, risk-taking behavior will increase the problems that will obviously contribute to the two major causes of death - cardiovascular diseases and cancer. 

In reality, many scientists are studying the etiology behind such risk-taking behaviors in men and working on male-orientated measures to reduce them. 

Traditionally, the scare tactic such as gruesome pictures on the cigarette packaging as a deterrent, may work for women. But such effects on men are often questionable. The social scientists are often dissecting the differences in prevention measures in men and women. 

Most of the risk factors that cause death in men are due to nurture rather than nature. One recent study from Sweden points towards genetic causes of shorter lifespan in men. The Y chromosome in men is normally considered responsible for the sex determination and spermatogenesis. 

The age related loss of this gene is significantly responsible for more than half of the overall deaths and about 10% of cancer death in men. This may be an evidence suggesting genes playing a role in premature male death. 

In medicine, men are actually less likely to fall ill than women. Technically, that makes men the stronger gender (please don't kill the messenger, I am merely citing scientific data). In reality, women are more likely to seek early medical attention. This will have a positive effect on survival when conditions are treated early. 

In many men, delayed treatment seeking behavior often compromises the success of medical interventions. 

In reality, healthcare is often women-centric. From the onset of menstruation to pregnancy, from childbirth to menopause, women’s natural relationship to healthcare professionals is an opportunity for preventative medicine.  

On the other hand, most male contacts with healthcare providers are only when necessary. That is often associated with late presentation of conditions. 

In the inspiring Watson “equal gender” speech, she voiced: “How can we effect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feel welcome to participate in the conversation?” Indeed, men’s health is rarely in the limelight or part of the conversation. As a result, the impact and awareness is often deficient. 

Although it is only once a year, Movember Movement seems like a perfect platform for the conversation. The awareness will not just empower all with the knowledge of health, it also highlights the vulnerability of life with ignorance. 

Many may assume I will dominate the talk with sexual dysfunction. I guess sex is just the attention grabbing headlines, now I have got your attention, may I start the conversation. 

In her closing statement, Watson pointed out: “We are struggling for a uniting word, but the good news is that we have a united movement." In the month of November, let the moustache be the united voice for men’s issues. Perhaps one day, the unzipped men’s health will be as equal as the undressed women’s health! 

> The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.   

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Dr George Lee

Dr George Lee

Dr George Lee is a consultant Urologist and Clinical Associate Professor whose professional interest is in men’s health. The column “Ask Dr G” is a forum to help men debunk the myths and taboos on men’s issues that may be too “hard” to mention. You can send him questions at askdrg@thestar.com.my

   

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