By Jean Graves, Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital
FORT POLK, La. – Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital encourages Soldiers and civilians at the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, Louisiana to grow a mustache this November to raise awareness about prostate and testicular cancers, mental health, and suicide prevention for men.
According to fightcolorectoalcancer.org “No Shave November” became the newest cultural phenomena in 2003. Commonly referred to as Movember, the origin of the movement started between two mustache-loving “mates” in Australia and today has turned into a worldwide phenomenon to promote men’s health.
No-shave.org suggests participants forego shaving and grooming to evoke conversations and raise awareness by embracing hair, which many cancer patients lose during their treatments.
Maj. Cody McDonald, clinical nurse in charge of the BJACH emergency department, is rallying his colleagues and friends to grow a mustache this month.
“I have participated in Movembers over the years and attempt to organize teams to raise awareness,” he said. “I feel it is a good way to highlight health-related issues that men face daily.”
McDonald said it’s important to normalize testing and encourage men to seek help when needed.
“Testicular cancer is becoming the number one cancer among men aged 15-39, which hits a key demographic in the military,” he said. “Regular check-ups and exams can aid in early identification and treatment.”
Maj. Leslie Thomas, family medicine physician and chief of the BJACH patient centered medical home, said a candid discussion with family members about their health history can help men determine their risk.
“Testicular cancer is relatively rare and is highly curable with a 95 percent survival rate. There is no standard or routine screening test for testicular cancer, however testicular pain or a lump are the most common presenting symptoms and are often detected by the patient or their partner,” she said. “Prostate cancer is the most common nonskin cancer in men in the United States. One in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, however, it is highly survivable with a 98 percent survival rate. Screening is based on a man’s risk factors and preference, ”
Thomas said cardio vascular exercise, avoiding tobacco and bi-annual dental exams are important for maintaining good health.
“Primary prevention with routine screening for issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and colon cancer is much more beneficial than trying to treat or reverse them once diagnosed,” she said. “Please come see us for your annual exam – it’s not as scary as it seems.”
McDonald said he hopes growing a mustache and opening a dialogue about men’s physical and mental health issues can help others.
“Men tend to fall victim to societal norms and are expected to be strong. Any signs of weakness or perceived weakness can make us feel segregated, especially in the military,” he said. “It is important to understand that your mental health is a huge part of your overall health. If you are unable to maintain your health, you may decrease mission readiness and become non-functional during times of increased stress. Knowing that you are not alone and utilizing the resources out there can help save lives.”
Lt. Col. Alexander Ragan, installation director of psychological health, said the Army is proactively encouraging Soldiers to ask for help and offer assistance to one another.
“Efforts include continuous training on identifying talk and behaviors in others that are concerning, asking if someone may be suicidal, and knowing the resources that are available to support that person,” he said.
Ragan said at Fort Polk, Soldiers, civilian staff and Family Members are receiving SafeTALK training during in processing, at their units, and wherever and whenever they need it.”
“This training encourages participants to be present and available to another person that may be struggling with mental health or thoughts of suicide,” he said.
Ragan said another training resource available is the REACH program.
“REACH is an acronym for resources exist asking can help,” he said.
McDonald said he tries to take care of himself mentally and physically and trying to find a positive work-life balance.
“I maintain a healthy life by staying active, I rely heavily on going to the gym and hiking,” he said. “I do love good food and try to make healthy choices, whether it I’m dining out or eating at home. Regular research and talks with providers keep me informed on my health and what actions I need to take to maintain a healthy lifestyle.”
McDonald said a healthy home life allows him to destress and stay positive.
“I truly married my best friend,” he said. “My wife is always willing to listen, provide moral support and help me keep a positive attitude. She wants me to be around for my kids, so she pushes me to be better every day.”
Spending time with friends and family outside of the workplace are ways McDonald stays mentally and physically fit.
Note: If you are an active-duty Soldier, please refer to Army Regulation 670-1, paragraph 3-2, section a (2) (b) if you plan to grow a mustache this month. Also, some women are ditching their razors in November so they can show support for men’s health-related issues too.