June is well-known for Father’s Day, a day when we honor the dads in our lives, but June is also important for men for another reason: It is Men’s Health Month.
Despite suffering from several serious health conditions at higher rates than women, men are less likely to see their doctors. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that men are more than half as likely as women to visit their doctor over two years. Additionally, 2.1% of men report they have never seen a doctor versus only 0.9% of women.There are many possible reasons for this healthcare gap. Surveys have revealed that many men report they feel they are simply too busy to go to the doctor. Others state they are afraid of receiving a serious diagnosis. While these reasons are understandable, here are five overwhelmingly good reasons why men should regularly see a doctor.
1. Testicular Cancer Checks
Testicular cancer is usually highly treatable at any stage. This fact means that the likelihood of surviving testicular cancer is good. However, treatment cannot begin if you don’t know that you have testicular cancer. A visit to your doctor can provide much education about testicular cancer, including how to perform self-checks.
Most cases of testicular cancer are discovered from self-examinations rather than in the doctor’s office. So, why should you bother even going to the doctor? First of all, your doctor can instruct you on how to conduct a self-examination thoroughly and painlessly. Additionally, you should always bring any lumps or nodes that you feel on or near your testicles to your doctor’s attention right away.
2. Prostate Cancer Screening
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men. Any man between the ages of 44 and 76 needs prostate cancer screening. This screening is performed through laboratory blood tests and brief rectal examinations.
Fortunately, prostate cancer is typically slow-growing. But just like with testicular cancer, treatment cannot begin without detection. Make sure you visit your doctor and follow their recommendations for your screening schedule, which will largely depend on your age and family history.
3. Colorectal Cancer
Colon cancer affects both men and women, but men have a slightly higher risk of developing this cancer than women. Colorectal cancer is a serious problem for both sexes as it is the third-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States.
Early detection is of supreme importance to the successful treatment of colon cancer. Reporting symptoms like pain with bowel movements or rectal bleeding is crucial, but so are colonoscopies. A colonoscopy is an outpatient medical procedure where a gastroenterologist examines your colon with a camera. They are usually recommended starting at age 50, and most patients only need a colonoscopy every ten years.
No one looks forward to colon cancer screening, but they are an essential part of preventing colorectal cancer deaths in men and women. If you are 50 or older and have not yet had a colonoscopy, call your doctor today.
4. Cardiovascular Health
Heart attacks strike men and women without prejudice, and women are more likely than men to succumb to a heart attack. However, on average, men suffer their first heart attack at a significantly younger age than women - 65 years old versus 72.
There is no surefire way to prevent a heart attack, but there are many effective ways to lower your risk. In general, men have more risk factors for heart attacks than women, such as smoking and heavy drinking, making risk factor modification especially important for men.
Visiting your doctor regularly can help reveal many opportunities to mitigate your risk factors for heart attacks and cardiovascular disease. They may encourage a change in diet or more exercise. Your doctor may decide to place you on medication to lower your cholesterol or blood pressure. There are even tests to check for heart function and coronary artery blockage.
5. Mental Health
Many men are reluctant to talk about mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, but men’s mental health is a crucial component of your overall well-being. Men are certainly not immune from mental health difficulties. In fact, there is a staggering difference between suicide rates for men and women, as men die by suicide at over three times the rate of women.
It may not even occur to some men to speak with their primary care physician about feelings and mental health struggles, but your doctor is an excellent place to start. They are trained to help as well as direct you to the assistance you need.
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Dr. Helen Ede works in our new Division, PACT Sterling Primary Care in Madison. To schedule an appointment, please call her office at 203-806-9401 or request an appointment online.