Pink Panthers on the prowl to raise awareness about men’s cancer

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Derry’s newest male cancer support group, the Pink Panthers, will be holding a range of events across the city during November to mark men’s cancer month.

The group, which was formed as an extension of The Pink Ladies, was launched recently and has already attracted a large number of members.

Michelle McLaren and Margaret Cunningham, Pink Panthers coordinators. (0111MM10)

Michelle McLaren and Margaret Cunningham, Pink Panthers coordinators. (0111MM10)

They meet on the last Thursday of each month in the Inch View Community Centre, Hazelbank, as well as holding events to raise awareness of men’s cancers.

The Pink Panthers’ Michelle McLaren said the aim of the group is to break the traditional reluctance among men to discuss cancer.

“In the past many men have been hesitant to talk about cancer and have been reluctant to seek treatment when they first experience symptoms,” she said.

“The Pink Ladies always intended to branch out to include men so in June we held a meeting specifically for men and the Pink Panthers grew from that,” she explained.

Pink Panthers members; back from left, Mickey McCusker, Danny McNamee, Paddy Nash, and Gerry Sharkey. From from left, Michell McLaren, coordinator, James Nash, and Margaret Cunningham, coordinator. (0111MM11)

Pink Panthers members; back from left, Mickey McCusker, Danny McNamee, Paddy Nash, and Gerry Sharkey. From from left, Michell McLaren, coordinator, James Nash, and Margaret Cunningham, coordinator. (0111MM11)

Fellow co-ordinator Margaret Cunningham, a trained nurse working with Habinteg Housing Association, said she believes attitudes to cancer among men are starting to change.

“In general, men are more reluctant to come forward and ask for help or information around cancer but I think we are starting to see a shift in that as men are becoming more aware of cancer issues.

“The main message that we want to get out to men is that early detection is vitally important. If men notice any change or anything unusual they should go to their doctor and get it checked out,” she said.

Pink Panther James Nash said the group is helping to spread information about cancer to help other men. “The signs are there for a lot of men but they ignore them and put their head in the sand. With me, when I look back, I can see the signs were there but my diagnosis came about almost by accident when I went to the doctor with a broken finger. He gave me the full health MOT and that’s how I was diagnosed. I was told if I hadn’t started treatment then I would have only had weeks to live.

“That is why it is so important for men to go to the doctor and get a check up, particularly if they notice something wrong,” he said.

James also said the Pink Panthers go out into communities to engage with men about health issues. “So far we have been at football tournaments in the Brandywell and we have certainly got people talking. When you are standing at a stall with a big sign saying ‘Love your balls’ it raises a few eyebrows. But that is what we want to do. We want to engage with people and injecting a bit of craic into such a serious issue can help break down barriers,” he said.

Ms McLaren said the Pink Panthers will also be visiting local schools. “Throughout November, because it is mens cancer month, we will be going out to community groups and schools to provide information and raise awareness of men’s cancers. At the start there is usually a bit of giggling and laughing but we find then once people start asking questions they learn a lot and hopefully that will help create a culture where men feel more able to talk about these things.

“Events like men’s cancer month and the ‘Movember’ campaign where men grow moustaches during the month of November have helped to raise awareness of the issue and during this month people will be seeing a lot more of the Pink Panthers across the city,” she said. She also said the pop up clinics which will be held throughout the city will provide all the information men need to know about cancer. “We have teamed up with Action Cancer and the pop up clinics will include full MOT health check as well as stalls with information on all aspects of men’s cancer,” she explained.

The pop up clinics will be held on the following dates; November 12 at St Columb’s Park House from 11am to 7pm; November 13th at Shantallow Health Centre from 11am to 7pm; November 19th from 11am to 7pm; and November 12th at Inch View Community Centre from 11am to 7pm.