University of Iowa hospitals and clinics are participating in Beard Up!, a men’s health campaign to raise awareness of men’s physical and mental well-being during Men’s Health Awareness Month in November.
Often referred to as “Movember” or “No Shave November”, the campaigns aim to remind people of the importance of raising awareness for men’s health, particularly prostate and testicular cancer and mental health.
Amy Pearlman, UI Carver College of Medicine, clinical assistant professor of urology and the director of men’s health at UIHC, said men usually struggle with where to turn when they have health concerns.
“Most places don’t have mandatory health training for men, so they can’t give patients detailed information,” Pearlman said.
Because men aren’t sure where to go or are embarrassed to talk about physical or mental health issues, many turn to online resources for information, Pearlman said.
“When a man comes in for health care, sometimes they can be embarrassed to articulate things like erectile dysfunction,” Pearlman said. “Men need to feel comfortable with their bodies and talk about their genitals.”
That’s why Pearlman and her team are committed to improving access to men’s health and raising awareness around it, she said.
“There’s no milestone in a man’s life that means they have to seek health care, while women are expected to see a gynecologist at a certain age,” Pearlman said. “We’re in the process of figuring out what a male milestone would look like — maybe when he hits puberty.”
Pearlman said she is working on a pilot program with fraternities to help young men understand their bodies and when to seek medical care.
A problem for men is prostate and testicular cancer.
While cancer can be frightening, both types of cancer are highly treatable, especially when detected early, said Yousef Zakharia, UI Carver College of Medicine, clinical associate professor of internal medicine in hematology, oncology and blood and bone marrow transplantation.
“Some men come across as very scared, especially when they are younger. Chemotherapy is very helpful and the cancers are very curative if detected sooner or later,” Zakharia said. “The best thing men can do is show up for their appointment and don’t shy away from doctors.”
Cancer is life-changing, which is why it takes a team of medical professionals, including psychiatrists, to help men navigate this phase of their lives, Zakharia said.
“Cancer isn’t fun to deal with, but it’s not the end of life, just a new commitment and a new life,” he said. “Having medical professionals in psychiatry and psychology screen our patients at an early stage makes a huge difference to their lives and a significant impact on their cancer journey.”
Another issue that is often overlooked is mental health.
According to Mental Health America, more than six million men each year suffer from depression, which often goes undiagnosed.
According to Mental Health America, men account for an estimated 10 percent of patients with anorexia or bulimia and an estimated 35 percent of those with binge eating disorder. Men with an eating disorder seek professional help less often than women.
Emad Abou-Arab, clinical assistant professor of family medicine at UI Carver College of Medicine, said there is no right time to address mental health issues and men should seek help as soon as possible.
“The most important thing is to make sure men are aware that it’s OK to handle things with your physical and mental health,” Abou-Arab said. “I commend the guys who see me for taking the step of addressing their mental health and talking to a stranger about their significant mental hurdles.”
During this month, many doctors at UIHC are growing mustaches and beards in support of the Beard Up! campaign, including Abu-Arab.
Pearlman said this campaign hopes to raise awareness and encourage men to seek the help they need.
“Men’s health is critically important, and we as health care providers need to learn better how to care for men’s health,” she said. “Nurses and nursing specialists need to learn how to care for men, and we need more people to recognize that mental health is health.”