Derry’s Pink Panthers have launched a new campaign to mark ‘Male Cancer Awareness Month,’ with the members engaging in a packed itinerary over the weeks ahead.
Members of the Pink Panthers joined representatives from the Pink Ladies and local MLA, Karen Mullan, to unveil a new poster at Free Derry Corner with the key message, ‘Ignoring signs won’t make it go away, contact your GP at the first sign of change.’
The Pink Panthers have organised a programme of events running throughout November and on Thursday last, as part of their ongoing partnership with the House in the Wells, the men joined residents for the annual pool competition, ahead of a quiz night later this month.
The Pink Panthers partnership with the House in the Wells has been deemed so valuable that it was highly commended at the Chartered Institute of Housing Awards held at the Titanic Centre in Belfast earlier this year.
Fresh from a spruce up by long-standing supporters at Derry Barber Company in the city centre last week, the Pink Panthers are teaming up with a range of other organisations to raise awareness and funds across the city and beyond.
Pink Panthers facilitator Margaret Cunningham urged local men to get checked out by their doctor if they notice even the smallest change.
Speaking at the House in the Wells, Margaret said: “I think we have always known men are a wee bit more reluctant to get checked out because it’s thought, ‘if it comes of itself, it will go of itself.’
“But quite often it’s about not ignoring those signs - signs like hoarseness, a lump that doesn’t heal, unexplained weight loss, change in bladder or bowel habits, loss of weight without being on a diet, a mole that may be changed in size, colour or texture.
“I always talk about this as the ‘Double DDs’ - ‘Delays are Dangerous,’
“Any sign of change at all, the earlier the detection the better chance of treatment being put in place and better outcomes.”
While the Pink Panthers offer support through their monthly meetings, they are also heavily involved in raising awareness about male specific cancers, such as testicular cancer (which affects younger men from teenagers up to 40s and which has a very good curable rate if treated on time), prostate cancer and breast cancer.
Speaking about the latter Margaret said: “A lump would be felt by a man more easily because there is less tissue there but, obviously, because it is linked to being a female cancer, it can be the one that might escape attention.”
Skin cancer remains the most diagnosed cancer in men here, with men working outdoors urged to be particularly careful.
Margaret said that throughout this month, a number of local men’s groups will be joining in a sponsorship drive, with the money raised to go towards the Pink Ladies and Pink Panthers charity.
“Throughout the month there will also be awareness-raising sessions through different places,” she said. “Groups, workplaces and such can phone in and can ask for a session to be delivered.
“That involves going out and speak about reducing risks in general, adopting lifestyles which can reduce your risk of cancer by 50 percent.
“We talk about how small changes can bring big benefits, things like stopping smoking, reducing alcohol, eating sensibly, maintaining your weight, taking care in the sun.
“And obviously if you are called for any form of screening, don’t ignore that.”
The Pink Panthers was set up as supporting group to the Pink Ladies charity in Derry and Maureen Collins, from the Pink Ladies, said that the Male Cancer Awareness campaign was something they were very much involved with.
“It’s as important as every other campaign we run, but it has an added significance because we believe men are less likely to go and seek advice and help, and also particularly when it comes to checking for change around the prostate and testicular area,” she said.
“We have also seen an increase in males approaching us this year, males being referred from the North West Cancer Centre.”
The past year has been tinged with sadness for the Pink Panthers as they have lost “two members and friends who would have been volunteers.
“It’s very poignant we’re here in the House in the Wells, which also lost two residents to cancer last year and also a member of staff, BJ McVeigh. It’s very apt we are here because BJ was always a big follower of the Pink Panthers and we appreciate everything that BJ did for us.”
She added that the annual pool competition was our way of interacting with the residents of the House in the Wells, creating an activity, introducing them to our Pink Panthers, having a bit of fun, exercise, social contact, but getting the message across, ‘boys here we are again.’ And we don’t just come once a year, we are in contact throughout the year.
“We actually have a quiz on in two weeks time general knowledge with a lot of health questions as well.”
Speaking about the wider campaign, Maureen added: “The message we would like to get out is ‘know your body, check for change, any type of change; If in doubt, check it out’.
“We are reaching a far wider audience and have also organised two events for rural areas.
“We are supporting the Dennett Inter-change Community Association and
“They are going to have us up. They are doing a family event and they are also doing a Farmers’ Event.
“Our organisation is growing, it is not just city-wide now, it has actually expanded into rural areas and communities.”
Co-chair of the Pink Ladies and Pink Panthers, James Nash, said November was gearing up to be a very busy month “a very important month as well to get the message across.”
Anyone wishing to come along to the Pink Panthers’ monthly meetings or seeking information or support is asked to call through to the Pink Ladies/ Pink Panthers on 028 71414004.