As a member of the male species I can truly empathize with the struggles men face when discussing health. There is a certain ‘macho man’ mentality that interferes with the way we approach male issues and health checks. In this brief article I would like to break down this wall of masculinity and discuss 4 health checks for areas that males are at a higher risk than females.
- A fairly obvious one to start off with is testicular cancer. The incidence of testicular cancer is in fact quite low with a rate of about 4 in 100,000 men diagnosed, however if you are a male between the age of 15 and 35, then you are at a higher risk than the rest of the population. The good news is when detected in the early stages, testicular cancer has an excellent prognosis. Testicular self-examinations (TSE) should be performed regularly to enhance early detection. Get to know your body and what feels normal so that any unusual lumps are detected early and can be assessed by your GP.
- Recent Australian statistics reveal that the risk of developing colorectal or bowel cancer is higher in males. The incidence is around 73.7 in 100,000 men diagnosed with colorectal cancer each year. It is important to be familiar with the signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer to aid in early detection. Changes in bowel habits, signs of blood after a bowel motion, bloating and abdominal pain are a few of the symptoms that may be experienced. It is important to share this with your GP so that the appropriate tests can be performed for early detection. The National Bowel Cancer Screening program is a fantastic initiative, which offers free Faecal Occult Blood Tests (FOBT) to men over the age of 50. These are a simple and non-invasive method of detecting blood in the stools. It is a recommendation that these tests are performed every 2 years after 50 years of age. For more information visit: Cancer Council Australia and search for the colorectal cancer fact sheet.
- Like colorectal cancer, cardiovascular disease (CVD) is not limited to men, however a greater number of males die from CVD than females, which leads me to question whether we as men are not looking after our bodies or are not reading the early warning signs. It would be a fair statement that when it comes to health checks our female counterparts, leave us at the starting line. This is something we need to change, especially when it comes to CVD. First step is to recognise modifiable risk factors such as smoking, obesity and alcohol. Secondly we need to engage in regular checkups with the GP to assess cholesterol levels, blood pressure and cardiovascular fitness. This is especially important in the over 50s population. Thirdly, we must be aware of the signs and symptoms of a cardiovascular episode and act on these symptoms earlier rather than later. Some of these symptoms include tightness around the chest, difficulty breathing, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, pain down the left arm, neck or jaw. Do not delay in seeking medical attention as a false alarm is a far greater outcome than a funeral.
- The final area I would like to discuss is prostate cancer. In a recent study, prostate cancer was responsible for 13.4% of all cancer deaths in males in Australia. Unfortunately there are no known ways in which to prevent prostate cancer, so it is for this reason that greater diligence and responsibility falls onto us men to ensure that regular check ups are met. Men over the age of 65 are at a particularly high risk and annual checkups to the GP are advised. Rectal examinations and Prostate specific antigen blood tests (PSA) are common checks to detect prostate cancer. It is not advised to wait until symptoms are present as by this time it may just be too late.
I hope that these tips on men’s health have been insightful. It needs to be said that it is not a ‘weakness’ to have checkups, nor are you less of a man for doing so, in fact taking control of your health instead of running away from it, could be thought of as the more ‘manly’ approach.
Article by Dr Michael Smith (Chiropractor)
Australian Bureau of statistics http://www.abs.gov.au
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare http://www.aihw.gov.au/australias-health-publications/
Cancer Council Australia http://www.cancer.org.au