By Barbara Pierce
It’s a fact. Men avoid going to the doctor.
Like asking for directions when you’re lost, you don’t want to do it. If you’re like most men, you don’t see a health care professional unless a condition becomes intolerable or you’re carried into the hospital on a stretcher. You avoid routine annual exams, routine screenings.
But putting off those routine medical visits is more serious than driving around trying to find the right street.
On the average, men die five years earlier than women, according to the CDC. They die from heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes.
Many of these deaths are preventable. And by identifying and treating these conditions, you can prevent the poor quality of life and disability they cause.
High blood pressure, diabetes, urinary issues and a whole host of other medical conditions aren’t going to magically go away just because you don’t want to see a doctor. Most medical conditions are curable or at least manageable, allowing you to continue to lead a normal life. However, according to experts, you should look into various treatments first before speeding ahead since your condition may worsen if you get the wrong doctor.
You rotate your tires and change your oil. You don’t want to wait until there’s smoke coming out from under the hood and the car stops running.
Don’t be one who takes better care of your car than yourself. Keep yourself healthy through screenings, screenings that were developed to do exactly that: to screen for potential problems. And correct any problems.
Physician Karishma Circelli, family medicine specialist, Mohawk Valley Health Services, Utica, suggests men consider these screenings:
High blood pressure: High blood pressure is a condition that rarely causes any symptoms. It does cause serious long-term damage to your body, especially the heart, kidneys and brain, said Circelli.
To prevent damage to your body because of high blood pressure, you first have to be aware you have it, through screening. Then it’s easy to control with regular medication.
Those younger than 40 with no heart disease risk factors should have a blood pressure test at least once every two to five years.
If you’re older than 40, your risk of having high blood pressure increases and it’s important to tested at least every year, by a trained professional with accurate monitors. Those public blood pressure machines at pharmacies aren’t a substitute, because they’re not standardized, which makes it hard to know how accurate they are.
High cholesterol: High cholesterol also doesn’t cause symptoms until it leads to problems such as heart attack and stroke, advised Circelli.
Most healthy adults should have their cholesterol checked every four to six years. If you have heart disease or diabetes or a family history of high cholesterol, get it checked more often, suggested the CDC.
Colon cancer: All adults 45 and older are recommended to have screening for colon cancer, said Circelli. When it’s caught early, before symptoms, colon cancer is treatable. By the time symptoms occur (such as changes in stool or blood in stool, abdominal pain, etc.) it’s often advanced and more difficult to treat, with less chance of survival.
For patients that are not high-risk, there are now easier ways of screening through stool testing, rather than a colonoscopy. Talk to your provider to see if you are eligible for this and so that you understand the risks and benefits of the various testing options.
Lung cancer: If you’re a smoker or have a history of smoking, you may be eligible for lung cancer screening with a CT scan. Lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer death in men.
Prostate cancer: Men with certain risk factors, especially family history and older age, should consider prostate cancer screening through a discussion with your doctor. Prostate cancer is the number two cause of cancer death in men, said Circelli.
Diabetes: Men with certain risk factors should be screened for diabetes to help prevent long term impact of this condition. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to blindness, limb amputation, kidney failure and vascular and heart disease.
Screening before symptoms develop leads to earlier diagnosis and treatment.
The American Diabetes Association recommends all adults older than 35 who are overweight should be screened every three years, as long as results are normal. Annual screening is recommended for those older than 45.
Hepatitis C: All adults are advised to be screened for previous hepatitis C infection as this is treatable. If not treated, it can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer.
“It’s also important to have your yearly checkup to make sure you’re up to date on immunizations that may be recommended for your age group,” Circelli added.
If you’re a woman concerned about your partner who avoids the doctor, simply schedule an appointment for him and go with him. Tell him it’s what his family needs and he has no choice; don’t argue or nag.
Man up: Take care of yourself as well as you take care of your car!