Men are much more resistant to doctor's visits and are more concerned with responsive than preventative health. One doctor stresses: It's time they become their own health advocates.
Thanks to awareness campaigns and well-publicized screening guidelines, more women are receiving preventive health treatment in the form of screenings than ever before.
But, chances are, the men in their lives could use a doctor’s visit.
“Men are much more resistant to doctor’s visits,” said Dr. Perry R. Weiner, Director of the Men’s Health Program at Jefferson. “We’re taught that we’re tough and strong and that we need to work hard and provide. Then we’re more concerned with repair than prevention.”
This is where chronic and complex health issues like cancer, hormonal imbalances and heart conditions thrive. But they can be caught early and treated with just a few simple office visits per year. In turn, avoiding screenings can lead to challenging health journies, like that of John Wilson, who discovered he had cancer at a long-procrastinated trip to the dentist for a simple check-up.
Here’s what you need to know to be an active participant in your health:
Health Screenings for Men Through the Decades
From ages 18 through 39, men should be checked for sport- and recreation-related trauma, sexual health, steroid use, substance use, weight and nutrition, hypertension and mental health, all while maintaining a detailed family and personal health history.
From ages 40 through 49, men should continue keeping an eye on these factors, while introducing colorectal cancer screening in the form of colonoscopies, blood sugar tracking and urinalysis. By now, any elevated risk factors from the family health history should be worked into a surveillance plan.
From ages 50 through 69, men should add urologic cancer screenings, vascular ultrasounds in smokers or those of increased risk and diabetes screenings.
After the age of 70, your primary care physician will decide which screenings are warranted, but will keep a close eye on your bone health, blood sugar, colorectal health and heart health. In addition to these core screenings, men should receive a few other checks at every age.
“Men need to be their own health advocates,” said Dr. Weiner. “Your PCP is juggling all of these factors, but if you can do self-checks at home and share updates in family history, you can fill those gaps.”
“It’s better to prevent it than to fix it,” he added.
The Top Three Health Screenings for Men
Of all the recommended health screenings, three remain top of mind for Dr. Weiner.
- Examinations for testicular cancer are often overlooked, can easily be done at home.Beginning in their teens, men should conduct regular self-checks for masses in the testicles. Any changes found during the checks should then be reported to your primary care physician. Cases of testicular cancer commonly present in the patient’s 20s and 30s, then decrease until the 50s.
- Prostate cancer screenings, in the form of a digital rectal exam and PSA test, should begin by age 50. However, if you are African American or have a family history of prostate cancer, you are at a higher risk and should begin sooner. Ideally, it should be five years sooner, or at age 40 if you have multiple risk factors.
PSA testing uses a blood sample to scan for irregular levels of prostate-specific antigens in the blood.
- If you notice bouts of fatigue, new or worsening obesity or issues with sexual function, your doctor may recommend a test of your testosterone levels. Testosterone production decreases naturally with age, but an imbalance earlier in life can produce a host of symptoms like these. A simple blood test and hormone therapy regimen will clear it up.
Illustrations provided by local Philadelphia artist/illustrator Bryce Gladfelter. View more of his work here.