The seven signs of cancer
Bleeding out ya bum, ya say?
Over the past few months I've been part of a men's health consulting committee for the Cancer Council of NSW, trying to work out how the hell to get blokes to go to the doctor ...
It's been an interesting experience because everyone involved is passionate and sincere about encouraging men to talk more about their health.
The committee's participants could not be more varied, from cancer survivors to doctors, advertising experts, authors, army officers, health industry gurus and, um, me.
Anyway, what we realised pretty quickly is that one of the big motivators for guys going to get something checked with their doctor is when their mates tell them a story about their own health.
JIMMY: "Yeah, I did a bog a few years ago, saw blood in the dunny and thought, 'Hello, I've got hemmies', but then I decided to mention it to the quack, he did some tests and, yeah, bowel cancer."
MOSES: "See, that's why you don't go to the doctor."
JIMMY: "Yeah, if you're an idiot. They caught mine early and I'm right as rain now, but if the doc hadn't done the tests, I'd a been dead in 18 months."
Moses might not like hearing reminders of his mortality - it can be confusing with a name like Moses - but when he goes home, he thinks about the cough he can't get rid off and he makes the appointment - and maybe another life is saved.
This is how it works with a lot of men, so what we're attempting to do with our consulting committee is come up with a catchy tagline to encourage guys to share their stories with other blokes.
A couple of lines we've come up with - but aren't yet sold on - are:
I WILL IF YOU WILL and TELL IT LIKE IT IS.
(The capitals indicate the taglines - or key messages. Jesus, I sound like I work in marketing).
What we're trying to communicate is that every man has a story about themselves or someone they know who's had a health problem.
It takes courage to open up and admit vulnerability, but when you TELL SOMEONE, you can SAVE SOMEONE.
Anyway, I mentioned our quest to some mates at the pub a few weeks back and one said pretty succinctly, IT'S NOT GOING AWAY, while another joked YOU SHOULDN'T SIT ON THE PROBLEM but, on reflection, I think they might be a bit negative to use as taglines.
The thing we know from research is that you can change habits. Thirty years ago, your average bloke would have looked at sunscreen as if it was ejaculate.
Now, thanks to SLIP, SLOP, SLAP, we all know most of the warning signs of skin cancer and how beneficial it is to go for regular skin checks.
What our committee would also like to do is embed the following knowledge into men's consciousness because knowing the stuff below will eventually save someone's life.
That is be aware of any changes in your body. Observe your body and don't ignore changes – check them out.
SEVEN MAIN WARNING SIGNS OF CANCER
1. A change in bowel or bladder habits.
2. A sore that does not heal.
3. Unusual bleeding or discharge from any place.
4. A lump in the testicle [for men under 40] or other parts of the body.
5. Chronic indigestion or difficulty in swallowing.
6. Obvious changes in a wart or mole.
7. Persistent coughing or hoarseness.
The thing to keep in mind is we all need to be alert, not alarmed: all these changes could be something else, not necessarily cancer but men should know this stuff because most cancer cure rates are better with early detection.
The other thing to keep in mind is that this is not always going to be "the other guy" or woman. Cancer will affect half of men and one-third of women, so think of the seven signs as putting on a seatbelt or looking left and right before you cross the road.
Cancer is part of life, but it doesn't mean it's going to be the death of you - or your mate - if you start the conversation and share your own story, or that of a brother, father or uncle.
It's not going away.
Can you think of a catchy tag-line to get men talking about their health?
THROW ME OFF THE AMP BUILDING
Well, you can't throw me off, but I will be abseiling down the AMP Building at Sydney's Circular Quay as part of the 2011 Urban Descent to raise money for the Sir David Martin Foundation to help youth in crisis.
SERIOUSLY - I never ask you people for anything - well, aside from buying my book - and this is a great cause. I would welcome any contribution, great or small, that you could make and it's sooo easy to do. Go here.