The message is loud and clear from the Pink Panthers - Derry men need to talk about cancer.
The newly formed group is the male equivalent to the Pink Ladies and on Tuesday morning it launched its male cancer awareness campaign at Free Derry Corner.
“Our message is really simple,” said Pink Ladies and Pink Panthers Co-ordinator, Michelle McLaren.
“Ignoring signs won’t make things go away, contact your GP at the first sign of change.”
The Pink Panthers formed in Inch View in June of this year. The group has a core membership of between 15 and 20 men but it receives queries from men looking to join on a weekly basis.
“With it being Movember [the event where men grow moustaches over the month of November to raise money for male cancer] we decided we wanted to do all we could to raise awareness about male cancer,” explained Michelle.
“A few of the men involved in the group are taking part in Movember. I think it’s great to see men talking about cancer so openly but we under no illusions of the work that has to be done.”
Over the coming weeks Michelle and the Pink Panthers will host drop in events in many of the communities around Derry.
“We find that it’s an excellent way of communicating with men because sometimes getting men to open up and talk about something as sobering as cancer can be very difficult,” she said.
Last Saturday the Pink Panthers attended the kickboxing competition in the Venue in Ebrington to hand out leaflets relating to male cancer.
“The best way to engage with men is to go to where they are. We handed out hundreds of leaflets last week and if one man decides to go to his doctor as a result of that and early detection occurs, then that has been a success,” said Michelle.
Michelle lauded all of the local men for taking part in this year’s Movember but affirmed that more has to be done to educate men on what to look for when checking for signs of male cancer.
“I think it’s amazing to walk around Derry and to see so many men growing moustaches for Movember.
“It’s great to see the support for male cancer but it’s not just about having fun - it’s about knowing what to look for,” said Michelle.
“We want to get the message out to the men of the city that there is help and support out there for them. And the other important thing to stress is that the Pink Panthers is not just a support group for men who have had or have cancer.
“It’s a group for men affected by cancer and should that mean that their wife or girlfriend has breast cancer or they have lost a loved one to cancer - we want them to come along and realise that the Pink Panthers Cancer Support Group is here to help and support them in any way that we can,” added Michelle.
Mickey Cooper lost his mother to breast cancer when he was a teenager.
Now in his late thirties, Mickey believes had the Pink Panthers existed around the time of his mother’s death he would have benefited from their help and support.
“It was a very tough time for everyone involved,” said Mickey.
“When my mother died there was no real cancer support group for men or women in Derry. I definitely would have made use of the Pink Panthers had they existed when my mother passed away.
“I am sure my mother would have also made full use of the Pink Ladies Cancer Support Group too because the work they do in this city is absolutely outstanding.”
The Pink Panthers will host health drop-in centres in the Gasyard Centre on Tuesday, November 19, from 11am-7pm and on Thursday, November 21 at Inchview, 23 Inchview, Hazelbank, Derry.
For more information on the Pink Panthers contact the group on 07568588124 or email: email@example.com