Let’s talk Cahonas!

Male cancer – the words alone instill anxiety. But today we’re chatting with Ritchie Marshall of Cahonas Scotland – hoping education and awareness will help ease the stigmas and fears associated with the disease.

Founded in May of 2009, Cahonas Scotland is a Scottish charity dedicated to raising awareness about Male Cancers (Testicular, Breast and Prostate Cancer). They exist to educate men, and their partners etc., on Male Cancers whilst also reducing stigma and embarrassment.

Survival rates of Male Cancers are increasing, however early diagnosis is key to this and through educating and developing men’s understanding of the signs and symptoms of Male Cancers and the impact on their health and well-being Cahonas Scotland aims to get more men aware of their bodies and ultimately save lives.

Welcome, Ritchie. There’s an unfortunate saying; if your life hasn’t been touched by cancer – wait. How did cancer first touch you, and transform into the work you do at Cahonas Scotland?

I think like most people cancer has affected us all particularly through friends and families experiences.  However, my first link with Testicular Cancer in particular, was through some research that I conducted for a presentation at college to which I was shocked at the statistics and lack of information readily available within Scotland. 

From college my career path led me to a marketing position in the charity sector and through my experience working with other charities it was proposed to me that perhaps I should set up a charity to try and make a positive change.   So with that, Cahonas Scotland was born.

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Testicular cancer isn’t the dinner table conversation most families chat up between sports practice and dance lessons – but it should be. How do you suggest we start the dialogue with friends and loved ones?

I think the question itself highlights the main problem we have to be honest.  There is still such a taboo regarding testicles.  Its one of the few types of cancer that seems to be something you can’t talk about.  Breast cancer was the same many years ago but there seems to be an acceptance now that it is socially acceptable to talk about it now.  We need to do the same with testicles.

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There is a great deal of awareness geared toward breast self-exam and symptoms women and men need to be aware of. What are these symptoms for testicular cancer, and how often should men be doing self-exams?

Whilst one of the most common cancers in young men, Testicular cancer is one of the most treatable and curable cancers. If detected in early stage, more than 96% of men that are diagnosed will be cured.

That is why we recommend monthly self-checks. Be aware of what is normal for you, and look for changes. If you notice any signs & symptoms – anything different or not quite right, don’t panic but get it checked.

We recommend a monthly regular check to ensure you know “what’s right for you” and to ensure you easily notice any changes.

The best time for checking is in the bath or shower when the scrotum is more relaxed.

Signs –

Lumps: A hard lump on the front or side of a testicle (usually pea sized).

Increased SizeSwelling or enlargement of a testicle.

During self-check you’ll find the epididymis, a long coiled tube that stores sperm and transports it from the testes. It feels like a soft rope-like structure on the upper or middle outer side of the testicle. Don’t mistake it for a lump. Testicles have blood vessels, supporting tissue and tubes that carry sperm. They get mistaken for abnormalities quite often, so don’t panic.

Hardness: One testicle may become more firm than the other.

Pain or heaviness: Pain or discomfort in the scrotum or testicles.

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Ask any medical professional what’s most needed in the cancer fight and the overwhelming response is research. But as we all know, research is millions of dollars in the making. What past and present fundraising does Cahonas Scotland do to increase programs geared toward preventative care?

Up until now we have been a completely volunteer led charity , (but given our support over the last few months are hoping to create a funded post to allow us to roll out an educational program.  This will allow us to raise even more awareness as at present being volunteer led and with existing full time jobs we can only commit to so many schools, awareness sessions etc. a year).  Fundraising has played a big part in this and we have been very fortunate to have a number of people who have been fantastic in their support of the charity.

One of our main income streams over the last few years have been through our annual Loosen Up Auction where celebrities donate one of the their signed ties or scarves.  This has been a huge success and seen some amazing support from the likes of Robert Downey Jnr, Paul McCartney, Brad Pitt, Katy Perry to name a few.

We’re big supporters of Sam Heughan here at ThePeakPosse, and know a little bit about his involvement with Cahonas Scotland, but can you tell us how the partnership originally formed?

Sam has been a long term ‘follower/supporter’ of the charity on Twitter etc.  We were planning our annual Loosen Up Auction in which celebrities donate signed ties and scarves to our cause and we dropped Sam a DM to see if it was something he may be open to.  Following some discussion Sam met us for a coffee to discuss how else he could support and get involved in the cause/charity. 

Sam agreed to become an ambassador for the charity and has supported much of our work to raise awareness.  Most notably his contributions have been providing the voice over in our awareness and educational video which he done pro bono and his kind donation to our charity auction, which raised over £10,000.

Sam has been wonderful to the charity and we cannot thank him enough for his kind support.  We are in discussions for some more projects with him that we hope to launch soon.

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I know you’ve been working with ThePeakPosse’s administrator, Bonnie Terbush. Tell us a little bit about the current fundraiser.

Given Sam’s involvement with the charity we have been supported for some time now by the amazing Outlander community. 

Bonnie kindly approached us to be a beneficiary of the next Peak Posse What’s in the Basket a fundraiser that she and the Peak Posse had done for other charities to great success.  We were honored and privileged to have been given the opportunity so have worked with the team to create the most amazing lot of Outlander goodies that one lucky winner who donates to the fundraiser will win.

This of course could not be achieved without the kind donations from members of the Peak Posse, companies, authors, artists and the Outlander stars who have kindly donated some amazing items.

The Outlander community really is an amazing and extremely generous group of individuals and that includes fans and the stars and their support and engagement with the charity (both fans and cast/crew) over the last year has blown us away.

For information on ThePeakPosse basket – click here!

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We ask all of our blog guests the same final question: What motivates you to make the world a better, and in Cahonas Scotland’s case, a cancer free place?

To have the opportunity to make a positive change and save lives!

We are taught from an early age to look both ways before crossing the road given the potential danger, likewise don’t touch fire etc.  Given the survival rate for Testicular Cancer if detected early we want to ensure checking your balls is equally a habitual thing that men do.  

We may not have the cure but early detection can and does save lives.  We already have had feedback from people who due to our information and advice have detected their cancers early (ultimately potentially saving their lives) this drives us forward to ensure that we educate as many young men as possible on the importance of self checking and what to look for.

Thank you, Ritchie for taking the time to speak with us, and for all  Cahonas Scotland does to keep the men we love healthy and happy. 

For more information on the educational and awareness programs Cahonas Scotland offers, please visit www.cahonasscotland.com. Social Media Links:  Twitter , Facebook, Instagram. 

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