As I prepare to shave off my Movember moustache, I'm reflecting on the reason why I decided to take part and the importance of fighting cancer globally. Four years ago, in November, I had a cancer operation to take my prostate out. Following that experience, and as a board member of Prostate Cancer UK, I'm passionate about raising awareness of men's health issues through initiatives such as Movember. Raising sponsorship money for growing my 'Mo' has been a great experience. I'm glad to have joined the army of men, like Ricky Gervais, Michael Owen, Theo Walcott, Damian Lewis and Patrick Taggart, who are taking part and doing their bit to get people talking about issues men often avoid talking about.
Cancer accounted for 7.6 million deaths, around 13% of all deaths, in 2008 according to the World Health Organization and prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK. According to Prostate Cancer UK, over 40,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer and 250,000 men are currently living with the disease. Since its launch in Australia in 2003, Movember has generated support and fundraising activity in almost every corner of the world, from the USA to Hong Kong and from Canada to South Africa, Singapore, Switzerland and beyond.
Finding out that I had cancer had a huge impact on me and my family. I took a long hard look at my life and made some choices to try to ensure my kids would be more secure, whatever was set to happen to me. I also became more aware of the steps I could make to improve my health. The depth of respect and gratitude I have, to the fantastic NHS teams who cared for me during my treatment, is indescribable. I will always be in their debt.
Cancer isn't an easy thing to talk about and, as men, we can feel embarrassed to share our health issues. It is all too easy to ignore a health worry, until it becomes a major problem, but the impact can be devastating. That's why I feel it is important to get people talking and thinking about men's health and growing a 'Mo' is part of this.
Having lived through this experience, I want to play a role in raising awareness, and in generating a debate on how health services for cancer can be improved across the globe. From healthcare delivery to health service management and post-operative care, I believe there is more we can do, globally, to take on this disease. The more we talk, and share knowledge and experience of best practice from different countries, the more chance we'll have of tackling cancer. Prostate cancer doesn't respect national boundaries and it is a very good job that Movember doesn't either. In an age where mass, social movements are creating change, it is a good job we're doing the same in the fight against cancer.
Follow Dr Mark Britnell on Twitter: www.twitter.com/markbritnell