Get Your Guy to the Doctor
to the Men’s Health Network, many men, particularly single men, are reluctant
to visit doctors. Some reasons for this include
of awareness of risk factors for specific diseases
It is not unusual
for primary care physicians to hear their 40-or 50- something male patients who
are having a general physical say, “My wife made me schedule this
physicians more often than men, both for specific problems and for preventive
care. Women are also more likely to take responsibility for the healthcare of
family members, including children, spouses and aging parents. Interestingly, in
the past 30 years, the ratio of male mortality over female mortality has
increased in every age category.
men—and the women in their lives—be concerned about when it comes to taking
care of themselves?
Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) Also
known as an enlarged prostate, this condition is common in men in their 50s and
60s. The prostate, a walnut-sized gland that produces semen, becomes enlarged,
blocking the urethra and making urination difficult. It may cause urinary tract
infection and burning or pain during urination. BPH is not a sign of cancer and
usually does not interfere with sexual functioning.
treatment for BPH is often “watchful waiting.” This means an annual (or more
frequent) examination to determine if the condition is getting worse. The
physician may recommend limiting liquid intake before bed and avoiding
over-the-counter decongestants. If the symptoms become bothersome and require
treatment, the physician may prescribe an anti-blocker medication, the type that
is often prescribed to treat heart blockages, such as Cardura® and Hytrin®.
Another option is a medication that will act to shrink the prostate. In severe
cases, surgery to remove the blocked area may be required.
to the National Prostate Cancer Coalition, this is the most common cancer among
men, striking 1 in every 6. The incidence is much higher (35-50%) among African
Americans, who are also 50% more likely to die from it than Caucasians. Cancer
that is confined within the prostate and has not spread is “localized.”
Advanced cancers may spread to other parts of the body, such as the lymph nodes
Prostate cancer may
be detected during a digital rectal exam or by having a blood test to check for
prostate-specific antigen (PSA). Remember, prostate cancer cannot always be
found with a digital rectal exam, and there are other medical conditions besides
cancer of the prostate that can cause an elevated PSA. If cancer is present, an
ultrasound examination can determine the size of the prostate, and a biopsy will
help determine the extent to which the disease has progressed.
Depending on age,
family history and other health factors, “watchful waiting” may be
appropriate since prostate cancer may grow very slowly. Other treatment options
include radical prostatectomy (removal of the prostate and surrounding seminal
vesicles), radiation therapy and hormone therapy. Risks include difficulty
controlling urine flow and loss of sexual drive.
cancer is not as common as other types of cancer (an estimated 6,900 cases and
300 deaths per year), and it is one of the most curable. As with all cancers,
early detection is key. In about 90% of cases, men will notice a lump on the
testicle, or notice testicular growth. They may also have a feeling of fullness
or aching in the lower abdomen or the scrotum. Sometimes, although less
commonly, men may notice breast tenderness or breast growth, resulting from
disease-related hormonal secretions.
examination is an important part of a man’s regular preventive checkup.
Self-examinations are best performed during or after a bath or shower, when the skin of
the scrotum is relaxed. Stand in front of a mirror and examine each testicle
separately. Hold the testicle between the thumbs and fingers with both hands and
roll it gently between the fingers. Look and feel for any lumps, or any change
in the size, shape or consistency of the testes. Tell your doctor about any
changes that you notice. Ultrasound, blood tests or surgery can be used to
diagnose cancer in the testes. Surgery, radiation and chemotherapy are the most
common forms of treatment.
the colon and rectum have common characteristics, and are often referred to
together as colorectal cancer. It is the third most common cancer in the US,
with over 90,000 new cases every year. These cancers develop slowly and may be
associated with precancerous polyps, which are small growths in the lining of
the colon or rectum. Colorectal
cancers are most commonly detected by digital rectal exam, or by fecal occult
blood test (FOBT), in which patients provide feces samples to be checked for
hidden blood. The inside of the colon can be viewed with a sigmoidoscope, or the
longer colonoscope, to allow physicians to see and remove polyps.
The American Cancer Society recommends annual FOBT and sigmoidoscopy every 5
years for everyone over age 50. People with the following risk factors should be
tested at an earlier age:
history of colorectal cancer
history of intestinal polyps or inflammatory bowel disease
high in animal fat
Diet and physical
activity are risk factors that you can control. A healthy diet includes plenty
of fruits, vegetables and whole grain foods, and limited intake of high fat
foods. Physical activity—at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most
days—is beneficial. Some studies indicate daily aspirin use and multivitamins
containing folate can also reduce risk.
Dysfunction (ED) The
inability to achieve or sustain an erection is a treatable medical condition
that affects about 18 million men, although only about 10% receive treatment.
Unfortunately, treatment is often delayed or avoided because men are reluctant
to talk about it with their partners and physicians. While occasional ED is
normal, certain physical conditions can cause recurrent ED:
or liver disease
smoking or drinking
effects of certain medications
ED can result from
(and cause) stress, depression or relationship problems. It’s especially
helpful if your partner is supportive during the diagnosis and treatment
process. Counseling is often a good idea for couples who are experiencing this
A number of
treatments are available for ED. The physician may recommend quitting smoking,
or changing medications to eliminate unwanted side effects. The prescription
medication Viagra®, which can increase blood flow to the penis, is often
prescribed for ED. Hormone therapy is another option, as is psychological
counseling. Finally, surgery is possible if a blockage is discovered to be
causing the problem.
Attack It is
important to be aware of the signs and risks associated with heart attack.
Symptoms may include:
- Pressure, fullness, squeezing or pain in the center of the chest
lasting more than a few minutes
- Pain spreading to the shoulders, jaw, neck or arms
- General chest discomfort with lightheadedness, sweating, nausea or
shortness of breath.
- Cold, pale skin
- Increased or irregular heart beat
these symptoms may come and go, and any one is definitely a reason to call for
emergency medical help. The longer treatment is delayed, the more
irreversible—possibly fatal—damage is incurred by the heart.
the country’s largest studies, the Framingham Heart Study, found that 25% of
heart attacks produce no recognizable symptoms. So it’s important to know what
the risk factors are, and if you are at risk, to have regular checkups to screen
for heart conditions. Risk factors include
- Age over 50
- Excess weight
- High LDL (bad) cholesterol levels
- Low HDL (good) cholesterol levels
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Sedentary lifestyle.
healthy diet that limits intake of cholesterol, fat and sodium, as well as
regular physical exercise, are important for both prevention and recovery.
your guy to the doctor
How can you
persuade the man in your life to start getting routine medical care? Nobody will
tell you it’s easy. But there are some things you can do. Some couples
actually go get physicals on their anniversary. This may seem like an odd way to
celebrate, but they figure it’s something they can do for each other. You and
your spouse could start a similar ritual. It wouldn’t have to be on your
anniversary, but it could be on the same day every year.
American Cancer Society; American Foundation for Urological
Diseases; Journal of Family Practice,
February 2000; Men’s Health Network;