Posted on Nov 04, 2014 by Ailee Slater
The Handlebar, the Chopper, the Fu Man Chu – these aren’t people, or makes of car or even fancy new cocktails. These are mustaches, and this November, you’ll be seeing a whole lot more of them.
November is also Movember: an annual month-long affair to raise awareness of men’s health issues. Many “mo-bros” grow out their mustaches in recognition of Movember, while their “mo-sistas” get involved too by planning fundraisers and other events, or just talking to the men in their lives about health care.
Movember activities raised nearly 100 million pounds around the world last year, with money going toward cancer research and groups that support men’s health. This year, Movember is hoping to raise even more.
But, what exactly are men’s health issues? One big issue is awareness: knowing what diseases can affect men, recognizing their symptoms, and understanding how insurance coverage applies to screening and treatment of these conditions.
This is the big one. Prostate cancer affects up to 80 percent of men who live until the age of 80, and around 1 million new cases are diagnosed every year. It is one of the most common types of cancer in industrialized nations, and studies show the incidence of prostate cancer is, unfortunately, on the rise.
Although the prevalence of prostate cancer is worrying, it’s a highly treatable disease: but early detection is key. Catching aggressive prostate cancer in its early stages means curative options including prostate removal or radiation therapy. If prostate cancer remains undetected, cancerous cells can spread – endangering nearby organs including the testicles and bladder.
Many insurance plans will offer annual prostate screening to men over the age of 40 or 50 who are at risk of prostate cancer, as a result of family history or lifestyle choices such as smoking that increase the chance of developing the disease. Some insurance plans also require that a man be informed of the pros and cons of prostate screening before undergoing the test. Because so many cases of prostate cancer are non-aggressive, patients may actually put themselves at risk by getting a prostate screening: if tests come out positive, the patient may be frightened into choosing to remove his prostate, a procedure that’s unnecessary and potentially dangerous in non-aggressive cases. At the same time, prostate screening for patients with a high risk of developing cancer can be lifesaving, and most insurance plans do offer that coverage – along with coverage for hospitalization and treatment expenses if cancer is detected.
A health issue affecting men and women around the world, men may be particularly vulnerable to obesity – and related problems such as diabetes, coronary disease and hypertension. Studies show that women are more likely than men to take preventative action against obesity, and are more aggressive at addressing unhealthy weight gain.
Excess weight can affects not just a man’s body but his male hormones too. Testosterone levels are lower in obese men, and evidence has found higher incidences of erectile dysfunction and infertility among men who describe themselves as overweight. What’s more, whereas women tend to gain weight on their hips and upper thighs, men usually add pounds around their midsections – putting a bigger strain on vital organs, affecting liver function and potentially leading to type 2 diabetes.
Men with even a basic health insurance plan will be pleased to learn that most cover weight loss programs as a preventative health service. In the United States, the Affordable Care Act requires that every insurer provide full coverage for weight loss counseling, and many will also cover enrollment in a fitness class or weight loss support group. Men concerned about obesity should ask their insurer what weight loss methods are covered – most insurance companies are more than happy to pay for preventative services, because helping a policy-holder drop pounds in the short term means less disease and less spending in the future.
Most cancers affect patients over the age of 40, but not testicular cancer. In fact, the men most likely to be diagnosed with this disease are between 18 and 40 years old. Testicular cancer is highly treatable once it’s been found: another reason regular visits to a health care practitioner are important for every man at every age.
Once testicular cancer had been found, it can be treated in a number of ways. Chemotherapy or radiation may be prescribed, but normally, a doctor will recommend simply removing the cancerous testicle. Some men worry about their fertility or sexual function following a testicle removal, but there’s really nothing to fear: each testicle produces a huge number of sperm, and very few men report any change in sexual ability or fertility following a testicle removal.
Any insurance plan that covers annual check-ups with a physician will help reduce the risks of testicular cancer. By speaking regularly with a doctor, men can learn how to look out for signs of cancer and how to self-check their testicles for unusual lumps. Most insurers also offer oncology treatment to existing policy-holders, but be careful: if you apply for insurance after a testicular cancer diagnosis, your monthly premium cost will usually be higher due to your existing medical condition.
Although women are more likely to seek treatment for depression, men are more likely to suffer its most deadly consequence. Fatal suicide affects approximately four times as many men as women, and during Movember, many mental health professionals advocate better preventative care for men. Some men may be reluctant to visit a psychologist, take medication for depression or anxiety, or even confess that they have a problem – fearing that such an admission will be taken as a sign of weakness by family, friends or coworkers.
In recent years, awareness campaigns and action programs from groups like the World Health Organization have targeted men: encouraging them to seek help for mental health problems. Movember events likewise emphasize the importance of not just a healthy body but a healthy mind as well. Along with commonly diagnosed disorders such as depression and anxiety, men are also at risk for manic-depression, schizophrenia, and eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia.
Private insurance holders will normally find that their insurance plan does cover some psychological treatment – a limited number of annual appointments with a therapist, for instance. For more information regarding any of the above mentioned conditions and treatment plans, or to find out how you can get involved with Movember 2014, please feel free to get in touch!