NOVEMBER is National Men’s Health Awareness month and the nurse lead at the Minor Injuries Unit at Royal South Hants Hospital is encouraging fellow men to look out for signs that something is wrong – and to be ready to act on them.

Award winning Nurse of the Year Mark Friend wants men to think more about their own health, not just for themselves but also for their loved ones.

He said: “Men often go into denial when we spot a problem. I believe we still carry the stiff-upper-lip notion of just getting on with things.

"We tell ourselves it will go away, or it is nothing to worry about.

"I suspect embarrassment and vulnerability also play a role in this.

"The thing men need to understand is that the largest health threats to us actually have great treatment success rates, if they are detected at an early stage.

"That means the responsibility for spotting the signs early is up to each of us.”

Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer affecting men, accounting for 26 per cent of cancer cases in the UK.

Cancer Research UK estimates that one in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime, while one in 195 men will be diagnosed with testicular cancer – a number that has roughly doubled since the 1970s.

Fortunately there are early warning signs for those who take the time to look.

Indicators of prostate cancer might include:

• a burning sensation or pain during urination

• difficulty starting or stopping urinating

• getting up more often at night to pee

• loss of bladder control

• a drop-off in flow

• blood in urine.

Mark said: “You must be vigilant – it is most important to be aware that although these are signs of prostate cancer they may be caused by other conditions and not necessarily cancer.

"Benign enlarged prostate is still the most common cause of all of the above."

There are also early signs of testicular cancer, which regular checks can reveal.

“We men need to get better at making regular checks part of our lives," added Mark.

"Women do it: due to successful public education campaigns around breast cancer, women have been much better than us at taking on the message of regularly examining themselves to detect early changes.”

Testicular cancer tends to affect men aged between 15 and 49: around 2,200 men will be diagnosed with it in the UK this year and this figure continues to rise.

After a warm bath or shower, take a few minutes to examine yourself following this simple routine:

• examine each testicle separately, rolling it between the thumb and forefingers to check for any irregularities such as lumps or bumps. They may well be painless but could be early indicators of something more serious

• feel the tube-like structure behind the testicle that collects and carries sperm. Do it regularly – then you won’t mistake it for lump

• check for any changes in size, shape, or texture (though be assured it is quite normal if they are not identical)

Remember you are looking for changes: if there is any alteration in the size, shape or skin texture, an early visit to the GP can allay any fears or address any problems in good time. Testicular cancer strikes early. It is the most common cancer in men under 40.

Mark added: “Three out of four suicides are men and around the world we lose a man to suicide every minute of every day. Mental illness is out there and does not discriminate. We men are bad at asking for help and emotional support. We internalise more and miss the early warning signs.”

Mark’s top five signs you may need support are:

• doing less of what you enjoy

• being late, missing deadlines, meetings or not showing up at all

• taking less care of yourself in terms of appearance and what you eat

• self-destructive behaviour, such as abusing alcohol or using recreational drugs

• getting angry more often.

NHS mental health services, MIND and CALM are organisations that can be accessed directly or with the help of your GP.

Mark said: “I know some men have concerns about telling anyone about any health matters below the belt, especially if they see a woman GP, but it is unlikely to be anything their doctor hasn’t seen before.

"Although men may feel uncomfortable, in reality there is nothing to worry about.

"And if that really is a concern, you can always ask to see a male doctor. We must also be aware of our mental wellbeing and seek help early."