Why won’t daddy go to the doc? 5 Health checks every man should do
Published on 30th October, 2020 at 12:40 pm
Guys not wanting to go to the doctor? It’s not uncommon. It’s critical men know what illnesses they’re most at risk of contracting so they can keep a lookout for symptoms – November’s Movember men’s health drive is a great chance to remind yourself (or the men in your family). Here are the five health checks all men need to have to detect these conditions early.
#1: Prostate cancer
Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in men. According to the National Cancer Registry (NCR), South African men have a 1:19 risk for being diagnosed in their lifetime. Although the disease is rare before age 50, your age, race, and family history may contribute to your risk of developing prostate cancer.
What is it? The prostate is a walnut-sized gland of the male reproductive system, located just below the bladder. Prostate cancer often grows very slowly and may not cause significant harm, but some types are more aggressive and can spread quickly without treatment. Symptoms to look out for include blood found in urine or semen, frequent urination especially at night, difficulty starting and stopping urination, having a weak or interrupted urinary system and experiencing a painful or burning sensation during urination or ejaculation.
The test: a PSA test
Men no longer have to fear a rectal examination, says CANSA, thanks to this prostate cancer screening. “Annual prostate specific antigen (PSA) testing is essential to help detect prostate cancer early, through a simple blood test,” says Prof Riana Bornman, senior research professor at the University of Pretoria’s School of Health Systems and Public Health.
Why PSA? PSA is a protein produced by both cancerous (malignant) and non-cancerous (benign) prostate tissue. High PSA levels may indicate inflammation of the prostate or even cancer. Should you experience any of these symptoms, consult your doctor, who will do a blood test to measure PSA. PSA tests are available at most CANSA Care Centres across the country.
#2: Skin cancer
Skin cancer is the most common cancer worldwide and South Africa has one of the highest monitored ultraviolet (UV) levels in the world, resulting in one of the highest skin cancer rates globally. Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, especially in sunny South Africa, with less than a third of melanoma first detected by doctors. Early detection is key to surviving skin cancer, and a monthly self-examination can alert you to any new or changing moles and lesions. According to CANSA: “Sunburn can occur within 15 minutes, and the damage caused is permanent, irreversible and adds up with each exposure to the sun.”
The test: a self-examination or skin biopsy
Examine your skin every month. If you notice any irregular-shaped moles, a change in colour in moles or pigmented skin lesions, you should get it checked out by a doctor immediately. Your doctor may look at your skin to determine whether your skin changes are likely to be skin cancer. If necessary, your doctor may remove the suspicious-looking skin for lab testing. A biopsy can determine whether you have skin cancer and, if so, what type of skin cancer you have.
#3 Heart disease
Heart (cardiovascular) disease refers to narrowed or blocked blood vessels, which can lead to a heart attack. Heart disease is one of the most common health problems that men face. The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa reveals the following:
• Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in South Africa after HIV/AIDS.
• More South Africans die of CVD than of all the cancers combined.
• CVD is responsible for almost one in six deaths (17.3%) in South Africa.
Although a person may have evident signs of heart disease that are easily recognisable, at other times, however, it’s possible to develop heart disease without experiencing any noticeable symptoms. How to keep tabs on it? Know your blood pressure.
The test: blood pressure test
Heart disease remains the top killer of both men and women, and high blood pressure is a serious warning sign. Your blood pressure can be easily tested at your local pharmacy clinic or at your GP.
Book a basic medical test at any Dis-Chem or Clicks pharmacy to measure your body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels, and earn tier points! Learn more here.
#4: Colon cancer
Colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon or rectum), is the second most common cancer and it is estimated that one in 79 SA men will develop colorectal cancer according to the NCR. Colon cancer is considered the most common type of gastrointestinal cancer, but is a treatable and preventable disease. In early stages symptoms are not present; however, when they do occur, they include a change in bowel habits, rectal bleeding, stomach pain, weakness and weight loss.
According to CANSA, early detection through widely applied screening programmes is the most important factor in the recent decline of colorectal cancer in developed countries.
The test: a stool test
A new study suggests that when it comes to colon cancer screening, an annual stool test may be as effective as a colonoscopy for people who don’t have risk factors for the disease. CANSA encourages early detection and screening through a colonoscopy, starting at age 50 and repeating every 10 years depending on the individual’s risk factors. Faecal occult blood tests are offered at most CANSA Care Centres, and look for microscopic blood in the faeces, which may be a sign of a growth, inflammation or bleeding in the digestive system.
#5: Testicular cancer
Although rare compared to other cancers, this one of the most common in men between the ages of 15 to 35. The most common signs are swelling or a lump in a testicle that feels heavy; pain and discomfort or a dull ache in the testicles; or a sudden build-up of fluid in the scrotum. The good news is that this form of cancer is very treatable, with a favourable prognosis.
The test: a self-examination
Dr Louis Boshoff, a medical adviser at Sanlam, notes that self-examination should be done once a month, especially if you have a family history of testicular cancer.
“Most testicular cancers can be detected early – a lump or swelling may be the first sign that a medical practitioner should be consulted,” says CANSA. “Men from the age of 15 to 49 need to examine their testicles each month, preferably after a bath or shower, to feel for any pea-sized lumps that could indicate testicular cancer.”
Why are men so ‘doctor-averse’?
A recent survey of men by Cleveland Clinic found that 65% of respondents say they avoid going to the doctor for as long as possible. Psychiatrist Dr Ian Westmore says that plenty of men have been culturally conditioned to take up the traditional ‘masculine’ role, including being seen to be ‘emotionally stable and strong’. He notes that the process of seeking medical attention implies vulnerability, and this is problematically seen to be in direct contrast to the above.
“Men need to take ownership of their health and schedule yearly appointments with their doctor,” says clinical psychologist Vanessa Marais, who specialises in cancer and oncology. “They need to understand their bodies better and accept the fact that fear and embarrassment are normal emotions. Communicating the importance of early detection to your loved one can save his life.”
Dr Westmore notes that the key to cutting through the ‘superhero syndrome’ often affiliated with men’s reluctance to go to the doctor is to provide them with facts, as men are typically fact- and solution-orientated. It is helpful to focus on the ’greater good’ that they will be serving for their families in receiving appropriate treatment should they be diagnosed, as well as the example they are setting for their children, concludes Westmore.
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