Column: Time for men to step up

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Commentary by Elisabeth Prosser, M.D.

Men often take responsibility to protect and provide for their loved ones. Unfortunately, many men fail to protect themselves when it comes to their own health. Such an approach could lead to devastating health conditions, many of which could have been prevented if caught early. As we are in the midst of Men’s Health Month, here are important considerations:

What are some of the biggest misconceptions men have about their health?

  • Something needs to be wrong to seek a visit to the doctor.  Preventative care is a key to living a healthy and full life.
  • Some men believe they don’t have time to see the doctor. Doctors more accessible than before. Many doctors’ offices are now offering extended hours and some even provide telemedicine for appointments to make it more convenient for people with limited availability. There are also worksite clinics that work with employers to provide timely access to care with on-site and near-site clinicians with an eye on prevention even if they are seeing a patient for an illness.

Why is it so important that men see their doctors regularly?

  • Regular checkups can be potential lifesavers, especially if they catch potentially deadly conditions early when they’re easier to treat. Many unhealthy conditions result from making poor lifestyle choices over time. And many health conditions—such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and elevated blood sugars—have silent symptoms that are hard to feel until it’s too late. When such conditions show up, they may already have caused irreversible consequences, such as a heart attack or stroke.
  • In reviewing or studying your health, your family’s medical history and your lifestyle choices, doctors sometimes can make non-medicinal interventional decisions for your betterment.

What preventative screenings should men have and how often?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following:

  • Colon cancer – If you are 50 to 75 years old, get tested. The schedule depends on the type of test used: colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy or fecal occult blood testing.
  • Lung cancer – If you are 55 to 80 years old and are a heavy smoker or a past smoker who quit within the last 15 years, get a low-dose CT scan every year.
  • Prostate cancer – Talk to your doctor about whether you need a digital rectal exam and a prostate-specific antigen test.
  • Skin cancer – Talk to your doctor to see if he or she would recommend routine screenings and periodic total-body examinations.
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm – This is a recommended, one-time screening by ultrasound for men ages 65 to 75 years old who have ever smoked.
  • Hepatitis C – Men born between 1945 and 1965 (between the ages of 52 to 72 years old) should be screened.

Elisabeth Prosser, M.D., is a family medicine physician with St.Vincent and the medical director of the St. Vincent@Work worksite clinics that offer on-site and near-site care for local employers with a strong emphasis on prevention and wellness. She is a guest contributor to Current. For more information, visit https://www.stvincent.org/services/wellness-medicine

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