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Defence and Security Strategy

Philip Hammond, Defence Secretary
Philip Hammond, Defence Secretary

British soldiers last week hilariously received a health first lesson as a prerequisite for gallantry and military success when they were told to check their personal ‘equipment’. This advice was given to them boys as part of a new army campaign to raise awareness of male specific diseases and encourage more soldiers to seek help early.

Every year 20 soldiers are diagnosed with testicular cancer which is becoming an ever increasing issue in young men aged 20-35, the main age that our troops serve their country around the world. When caught early enough there is a 90 per cent survival rate but male soldiers are often less likely to seek medical help and instead try to ‘tough it out’.

The Army’s brand new health awareness campaign will initially focuses on testicular cancer and will encourage soldiers to think about their health differently. The light-hearted posters and leaflets will educate soldiers about how to carry out self checks and point out what to look for. They will help raise awareness of male associated diseases such as testicular and prostate cancer and let soldiers know where they can get more advice if they need it.

The campaign kicked off last week at the annual Army Navy rugby match at Twickenham with the support of Andrew Gomarsall MBE, former England rugby player and member of the winning World Cup team in 2003.

Speaking ahead of the launch of the campaign sports legend Andrew Gomarsall MBE said: “The aim of the campaign is to raise awareness of some serious male health issues, specifically the reluctance to seek medical help. I’ve seen it throughout my professional rugby career in the locker rooms and there’s a similar attitude in the military. Therefore today is a great opportunity to make sure those keeping our country safe also keep themselves safe.”

Colonel Kevin Davies MBE from 160 Wales Brigade who has survived prostate cancer said: "Today’s launch could not be more timely. Men’s health issues are at last getting the necessary profile and to that end I commend the campaign. I know from personal experience that diseases like testicular cancer and prostrate cancer can have little warning but drastic circumstances if not caught early. Often such diseases are not reported because men find them embarrassing to talk about. My message is simple – don’t die of embarrassment, seek advice early, have the life saving conversation with your healthcare professional, take ownership of your health and be proactive.”

Oi! The next time you embark on any military exercise or campaign abroad, don’t forget to do the first thing first – check your personal ‘equipment!’ But better do it as often as you can. A word is enough for the wise.