Men: Make Preventive Health Care a Priority

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November is Men’s Health Awareness Month, and, as a man, you have unique health care needs that affect your body, mind and spirit. Make it a goal to understand your current health and your risk factors for certain health conditions. It’s up to you to protect your whole health — and stay well for many more years to come.

Compared to women, men are less likely to see a doctor for preventive care (and sometimes even for more serious conditions). What you may forget is that your lifestyle choices also affect your loved ones, your community and even your job.

Make a commitment to being more proactive about your care so you can enjoy your coming years with health and vitality.

Listen to Your Body

Whatever your age, learn what you can do to feel and live your best. This includes proper exercise for your age and condition, a balanced diet and healthy stress management techniques. You can also be prepared by learning the warning signs for men’s health issues such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and understand what health care screenings can help you catch some conditions early on.  

Screenings Keep You on Track

Your doctor can help you stay up-to-date on all the health screenings you need, including annual checkups for cholesterol, diabetes and prostate health. Other screenings may include:

  • Heart and vascular

  • Incontinence

  • Reproductive health and fertility

  • Prostate cancer

  • Testicular cancer

  • Testosterone-related energy conditions

Catching Prostate and Testicular Cancer Early Can Save Your Life 

“While it largely develops in older men, prostate cancer can happen at any age. In fact, it’s the second cause of cancer death among men,” explains Jose Silva, MD, board-certified urologist at AdventHealth Medical Group Urology at Apopka and Winter Garden.

Although that’s a startling statistic, the good news is that most men diagnosed with prostate cancer, especially in its early stages, can survive it. That’s why detecting this slow-growing cancer early, when it’s most treatable, is so important.

When to Consider Prostate Cancer Screening 

Although the medical community agrees it’s a good idea, there really isn’t a hard and fast rule on when prostate cancer screenings should start, or which screening methods should be used. “It’s ultimately up to you and your doctor to talk about your prostate cancer risk and to create a screening plan that’s right for you,” says. Dr. Silva.

Since prostate cancer usually doesn’t cause noticeable symptoms, especially in early stages, the American Cancer Society offers suggestions on when conversations about prostate cancer screening should begin as a general rule. But if you do experience any of these symptoms, you should talk with your doctor right away: 

  • Back pain 

  • Blood in your urine 

  • Changes in your urine flow or frequency 

  • Pain while urinating  

  • Pelvic pain 

When no symptoms are present, you should talk with your doctor about prostate cancer screening at: 

  • Age 40 for men at high risk (family history of prostate cancer, especially more than on close relative, African Americans, and Hispanics) 

  • Age 50 for men at average risk 

  • Age 55 for men with no risk

Prostate Cancer Screening  

There are a number of screening options available to help detect prostate cancer, including: 

  • Digital Rectal Exam (DRE): Allows your doctor to check your prostate for lumps (nodules) or anything unusual. 

  • Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Test: Checks for an increased PSA level, which could be a sign of infection, inflammation or an enlarged prostate. 

Testicular Cancer Preventive Measures

Testicular cancer is not as common as prostate cancer, but the rate is increasing in younger patients. About half of testicular cancers occur in men between the ages of 20 and 34. But this cancer can affect males of any age, including infants and elderly men.

The risk factors of testicular cancer may include:

  • An undescended testicle

  • Family history of testicular cancer

  • HIV infection

  • Previous personal history of testicular cancer

  • The risk of testicular cancer among white men is about 4 to 5 times that of African American and Asian-American men

If you have any of these risk factors that increase your chance of developing testicular cancer, you should seriously consider monthly self-exams and talk about it with your doctor.

Self-exams can be done at any time, but experts agree that the best time to examine your testicles is during or after a shower, when your skin is more relaxed. To do a self-exam:

  • Hold your penis out of the way and examine each testicle separately

  • Hold your testicle between your thumbs and fingers with both hands and roll it gently between your fingers

  • Look and feel for any hard lumps or nodules (smooth rounded masses) or any change in the size, shape, or consistency of your testicles

“Examining a patient’s testicles will be a part of a general physical exam during routine check-ups, so make sure you’re visiting your primary care physician annually for your physical or checking in with a urologist,” says Dr. Silva.

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)

BPH is also referred to as prostate gland enlargement, and while it is perhaps not discussed as often as the cancers impacting men, it is a common condition that can arise in men as they get older. An enlarged prostate gland can cause uncomfortable urinary symptoms, such as blocking the flow of urine out of the bladder. It can also cause bladder, urinary tract or kidney problems.

It may be a good time to talk with your doctor about the possibility of BPH if you’re experiencing any of these signs:

  • Difficulty urinating

  • Dribbling at the end of urination

  • Frequent or urgent need to urinate

  • Inability to completely empty the bladder

  • Increased frequency of urination at night

  • Weak urine stream or a stream that stops and starts

About one-third of men experience symptoms by age 60, and about half do so by age 80. Those who have a family history of prostate problems may be more likely to experience them themselves.

To diagnose an enlarged prostate gland, your doctor may do a series of tests, including a digital rectal exam, urine test, blood test and/or PSA blood test. From there, your doctor will discuss a variety of treatment options. The best treatment for you will depend on the size of your prostate, age, health and level of discomfort. “In some cases, we may suggest minimally invasive surgery to treat an enlarged prostate, but first we’ll try medication,” says Dr. Silva.

Connect With an AdventHealth Urologist

For more information on men’s health issues or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Silva, click here.

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