Opinions

Orchid Male Cancer Awareness Week – during the pandemic keep on checking

Written by: Shirley Young, Penile Cancer Information Manager - Scotland, Orchid Cancer Appeal

Published: 29/09/2020

In this opinion piece, Shirley outlines the value of knowing, checking and sharing the signs and symptoms for male-specific cancers.

Orchid Cancer, the UK’s leading charity dedicated to male specific cancer; cancer of the penis, testicles and prostate have recently appointed Shirley Young as their Penile Cancer Information Manager, Scotland.

This appointment was made because although Penile Cancer is very rare:

  • Its implications are devastating – sometimes leading to people having to have their penis completely removed or death
  • It disproportionately affects men in Scotland as opposed to the rest of the UK
  • Doctors are increasingly seeing younger men in Scotland affected

Whilst research is being carried out to find out why this is the case, the organisation felt that they needed a presence in Scotland to:

  • Advance awareness of the disease amongst health professionals and the wider public
  • Engage politicians and NHS Scotland to develop improved outcomes for patients
  • Provide support to people affected and their families

Since taking up post, Shirley has joined the Scottish Parliament Cross Party Group for Cancer, is developing support partnerships via Cancer Nurse Specialists within specialist Urology Oncology centres and Maggie’s Centres across Scotland and supporting patients.

Although cancer services have been prioritised in Scotland throughout the Covid pandemic and advertisements have urged people to continue to report worrying symptoms, the lockdown saw a drop of about 78% of people seeking advice. That has now improved, but referrals are still down around a quarter on pre-pandemic levels.

Shirley explains that is why the focus of this year’s Orchid Male Cancer Awareness week is about encouraging people to:

  • Check what is normal for them
  • Check to see if anything is different and if so
  • Check it out with their GP for this to be explored

‘We know that men in particular, are reluctant to seek medical advice when faced with symptoms, especially when those symptoms relate to parts of the body they consider private and/or carry stigma.

That is why during Orchid Male Cancer Awareness week we are urging everyone with a penis, testicles and prostate gland to act if anything is ‘different for them’.

We are also appealing to partners to point out if they see anything different in their partner’s appearance or behaviour relating to urination or sexual function. An avoidance of intimacy can mean that someone is having pain or is embarrassed by how their penis looks, potentially signs of Penile Cancer.

Not wanting to go out for a coffee might mean that your partner is urinating more frequently and is fearful of getting ‘caught short’ – a feature of Prostate Cancer.

Any young person who has swelling or pain in their testicles should also have this explored with a medical professional to rule out the possibility of Testicular Cancer.

Ignoring symptoms can mean that it is too late to provide early treatment that can literally save lives, so if something is not right for you, please contact your GP or call our nurse-led helpline on 0808 8020010.

Learn more about Orchid and our work on our website (this link will take you away from the ALLIANCE website). You can also request your digital pack from info@orchid-cancer.org.uk.

 

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