Wessex Cancer Trust, a charity that supports thousands of people living with cancer in Hampshire, Dorset and the Isle of Wight, has launched a men’s health campaign called ActionMan. Funded by Action Hampshire, it will encourage men to be aware of the signs and symptoms of cancer and contact their GP if they have any concerns.

ActionMan has been launched in response to the results of a study carried out by a group of junior doctors in Hampshire. It found that 43% of men would feel discouraged from talking about worrying changes to their body for fear of ‘making a fuss’, and 23% would be too embarrassed. Many men delay seeing a doctor because they’re frightened about what they might find out or don’t know how to talk about changes to their body.

The campaign aims to reach thousands of men through groups including Rotary, Masons and Lions, businesses, workplaces like the emergency services, sports clubs, and – when Covid restrictions ease – face-to-face events.  The campaign also recognises the role many women have in encouraging male loved ones to speak to their GP if they feel something might be wrong and aim to reach this group too.

The charity has developed a new section on its website, which can be found at actionman.wessexcancer.org.uk. It describes some of the common male cancers and their symptoms, the opinions of medical professionals, details of the support Wessex Cancer Trust can provide, videos from some famous faces, information on how to get involved and stories from local men who have been affected by cancer.

Helen Burch, Practice Manager, and Dr Joe Shimbart, Development Lead and GP partner, Lake Road Practice, part of Island City Network in Portsmouth (also including John Pounds, Sunnyside and Derby Road practices) say:

“We have always been and remain ‘open for business’ for anything non-Covid related, especially when it comes to symptoms that need to be addressed sooner rather than later. We are especially delighted to support this very important campaign about encouraging men to seek GP advice with any worrying symptom they find. The outcome statistics for men and cancer, in general, are troubling, so anything that helps improve these is most

welcome. Nowhere near every symptom means it is cancer, but we need to be made aware of every symptom to identify those that are cancer, the earlier, the better. Please call/contact all practices in Portsmouth and let us all help not just you but at the same time your family and friends.

There has been a drop in the number of people we are seeing, which is very concerning, so our message is simple: if you have a symptom that you are worried about, please contact your GP immediately, they are ready and waiting to help you. If it is cancer, then getting that diagnosis early could be the key to better treatment options as well.”

Paul started experiencing pain when he was 19 but ignored it for almost 15 years:

“As a typical bloke I didn’t like to think there was anything wrong with me so I tried to put it out of my mind. Also, the thought of being examined by a doctor petrified me. By the time I was 34 there was a sizeable lump and my wife made me go to the doctor. Luckily, everything was fine but I wish I’d gone sooner. I understand that blokes don’t want to go to the doctor. Generally we’re fixers and have this pressure to act like there’s nothing wrong all the time. But we have a stark choice, don’t we? Accept that we might have to endure a few minutes of feeling a bit awkward, or risk if we don’t, we may not be there for our families and mates in the future.”

Launching ActionMan, Sally Hillyear, Wessex Cancer Trust’s Head of Fundraising and Communications,  said:

“We know that men are 60% more likely to get cancer, and yet this group makes up just 20% of the people who ask us for support. We’re launching ActionMan because it’s really important for men to be aware of the signs and symptoms of cancer and take action if they are worried about any changes to their bodies. We also want men to help their mates and loved ones by making it ok to talk about things. The idea behind the campaign really is as simple as that, but it could make a huge difference.”

Visit actionman.wessexcancer.org.uk for more information or find out how you can get involved with the campaign committee contact: matt@wessexcancer.org.uk or 02380 672200.