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“Guys, have You Checked Your Goolies?”

Issued on behalf of Hollard Daredevil Run by Creative Space Media

Why the ‘nagging’ might well be worth it.

When he felt a lump in his testicles while in the shower, he knew that it couldn’t be ignored.

He was about to turn 30, and since his early teen years, his mother had been reminding him and his brother to “check their goolies” at least once a month for any lumps.

Being a nurse and working with the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), Olivia Curlewis knew that testicular cancer is the most common cancer in young men aged between 15 – 39, and that it affects males of all races. The survival rate of stage 1 testicular cancer can be as high as 100%, making early detection and prompt action vital.

Marc Curlewis

Olivia’s youngest son was born with an undescended testicle, which is when one or both testicles do not move down into the scrotum before birth. While it is an easily rectified issue in babies, it does come with an increased risk of testicular cancer when they are older.

It was all of these reasons that made Olivia passionate about reminding both of her sons about the symptoms of testicular cancer and the importance of regular self-examination. What might have been an annoying and embarrassing nag from his mother, ended up being a lifesaver for her son, Marc Curlewis.

Knowledge is power and can be life saving when it comes to male cancers, and it is often the daughters, wives, partners, sisters and mothers that urge the men in their lives to get tested and screened. Women also play an important role in supporting men throughout their journey with cancer.

Let’s face it, women on the whole are the stronger sex when it comes to health. In general, men die younger than women, and they are more burdened by illness during life. They fall ill at a younger age and have more chronic illnesses than women.

According to Harvard Medical School, the reasons for this are numerous, and include biological, behavioural and social factors. One reason cited is that women are just better at thinking about, and doing something about, their health. Men are less likely to get routine check-ups and necessary medical care.

In fact, according to research conducted by the Commonwealth Fund in the United States in 2019, three times as many men as women had not seen a doctor in the previous year.

Prof Shingai Murambirwa, Head of Department of Urology at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University (SMU) in Pretoria, agrees and says the same applies in South Africa. “Men are five times less likely to get routine medical checks done than women,” he says.

While doing a testicular self-examination in younger men is vital, so too is being screened annually for prostate cancer as men get older.

According to Dr Evelyn Moshokoa, Head of the Urology Department at the University of Pretoria and Chief Urologist at Steve Biko Academic Hospital, women are very influential within a family and can influence health decisions positively.

She says that many men are afraid of tests especially the discomfort of a rectal examination, some are ignorant, and some say they don’t have time. Knowledge of the benefits of early detection may also be lacking.

When it comes to prostate cancer, a simple Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test every year is all it takes. This needs to start annually from the age of 40 in African men and men who have a family history of prostate cancer, and from the age of 45 for men without additional risk factors.

Dr Moshokoa says that awareness campaigns such as the Hollard Daredevil Run are important and effective. “It is human nature to be communal, connect, talk, and do things together,” she says. “It is through these campaigns that people realise they are not the only ones concerned and not the only ones that can be affected, and the impact is long lasting,” she says.

The Hollard Daredevil Run, is an annual event that sees thousands of men running a 5km fun run in purple speedos. The run raises awareness of prostate and testicular cancer and uses the power of collective action to inspire positive change. Normally held in March, this year’s Daredevil Run has been postponed until September due to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.

Heidi Brauer, Chief Marketing Officer at Hollard, says that women play a vital role in supporting male family members when it comes to the early detection of cancer. “As a woman, I don’t exactly enjoy going for my annual cervical cancer screening and mammograms but I do them because I know they’re important. The checks and screenings that my husband and sons should be doing are just as important, but, like many other men, they’re not exactly as conscientious about doing them. So I often have to do the nudging,” she says, “if the Daredevil Run doesn’t do it for me”.

Once Marc’s testicular cancer had been confirmed, surgery commenced, and it was established that the cancer had not spread. Chemotherapy followed, as along with regular check-ups before Marc was in full remission. Ironically it was Marc’s brother who had been born with an undescended testicle and an increased risk of testicular cancer. Marc himself had no risk factors – a reminder that testicular and prostate cancer can happen to anyone. Remember to get screened, check your “goolies” and listen to the women in your life when it comes to your health and check-ups. They know what they are talking about.

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