With November comes Movember. Men grow their moustaches for Movember to raise awareness on men’s health issues such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health.
According to Singapore Cancer Society, prostate cancer is the third-most common cancer and sixth-most common causes of death in Singaporean men.
The prostate is a small gland below the bladder and surrounds the tube that carries urine out from the bladder.
Dr Colin Teo, urologist at Gleneagles Hospital, says: “Half of men aged 50 could have prostate problems. While most urinary symptoms are due to Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH), also called prostate enlargement, some of these symptoms would harbour prostate cancer. Unlike diseases that may be detected by self-examination such as breast cancers, or physical injuries that are self-evident when sustained during activities, you cannot self-examine for prostate cancer.”
Health screenings and early detection with the appropriate treatment can improve the chances of a cure in high risk prostate cancers.
A simple blood test for prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level is recommended for men over the age of 50, or 45 for those with higher risk factors such as a family history of prostate cancer.
Dr Teo says that a software that can “fuse” MRI scans with real-time ultrasound images of the prostate had been developed. This technology allows “live” targeting of the areas concerned and has helped to increase the accuracy of biopsy. The technology also allows detailed mapping of the prostate where previous biopsies were performed in case future biopsies may be needed.
With new advances in medical technology, early detection of high risk cancers can allow these cancer patients to continue leading active and productive lives after their treatment.
Colorectal cancer is the most common cancer in men (about one in six male cancer patients) in Singapore, states the Singapore Cancer Registry. It is also the second leading cause of cancer deaths in men.
According to colorectal surgeon Ng Kheng Hong of Gleneagles Hospital, it is rather common for doctors to pick up colorectal cancer only at a very late stage. This is because people at early stages of colorectal cancer may not experience any symptoms. Those who experience symptoms, such as bloating or discomfort, might brush them off as nothing serious and not go for screening.
But unlike breast or prostate cancer, colorectal cancer has a pre-cancerous stage.
Polyps in the colon take about five to 10 years before they develop into colon cancer. Removing the polyps in the pre-cancerous stage can reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Dr Ng encourages everyone, especially those above the age of 50, to screen for colorectal cancer by sending their stool samples for occult blood test. If occult blood, which is not visible to the naked eye, is present, a colonoscopy is recommended.
November is the height of marathon season in Singapore.
Exercise in general has many benefits: lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol level, weight loss, better mental health, improved glucose metabolism and lower risk of diabetes.
But running even a half-marathon is not something that you should attempt on a whim. When you run a marathon, you are putting your body in a repetitive strain injury.
Gleneagles Hospital cardiologist Rohit Khurana says: “We see microdamage reflected in blood tests of people after a marathon. While the data does not seem to suggest any danger, in the short term, you are incurring some sort of repetitive injury.
“Those in late 40s to 50s need to be more careful as they have a lifetime of risk factors that may catch up with them during an endurance event such as a marathon.”
The risk factors refer to people who are ex-smokers, have a history of weight problems and high blood pressure, have a family history of heart disease, and have been sedentary for too long.
Dr Khurana adds that anyone with past cardiac issues should go to a doctor for a health check before participating in an endurance event to ensure that their risk factors are under control.
One of the best ways to improve cardiovascular health is to take up aerobic training. You can complement it with weight and resistance training for added benefits.
Care for bones, joints and muscles
To Dr Tan Jee Lim, orthopaedic surgeon at Gleneagles Hospital, human beings are built to run — maybe just not the 42km marathon.
Common areas of injury due to overexertion from running a marathon are the lower limbs, which include the feet, knee joints and hips.
A common injury is plantar fasciitis or runner’s heel, where the lower limbs and feet are overworked and suffer from repeated impact. In more severe cases, sufferers may feel persistent pain throughout the day.
Another injury is stress fractures that occur at the different parts of the feet. These stress fractures may build up gradually and lead to a crack. When a stress fracture occurs, it usually takes about a month to heal.
Dr Tan recommends stretching as a good way to minimise injuries. Three stretches to incorporate into a run are cold, warm and cool-down stretches.
A cold stretch is the initial stretching when the muscles and tissues are cold before a run. This acts as a wake-up call to the body, especially the joints, bones, muscles and tendons. Stretching should not be overdone to avoid the risk of microscopic tears or pull strains.
A warm stretch is ideal after a round or two of running. The body is getting warmed up and the muscles, joints and tendons are more pliable after a good stretch.
The cool-down stretch is done after a run, when the body is already warmed up. This helps to keep muscles pliable and flexible, which goes a long way in preventing injuries.
Besides giving yourself time to train, Dr Tan also recommends pacing the increase of distance to cover to 10 per cent over a two-week period.