The Coast News Group

‘Man code MD’ — annual visits save lives

There are some men who live by Man Law, and some who think it is preposterous. For all men, regardless of your opinion, you should see a physician annually and perform regular self-exams to screen for a number of medical problems and to stay in tip-top shape.
June is a special month for men. It is the month when we honor our fathers, when baseball season is in full swing and that barbecue stays uncovered and ready to go. In addition, during the week of June 15 to June 21, the more than 106 million adult American men will be encouraged, as part of National Men’s Health Week, to heighten their own awareness of preventable health problems and solicit early detection and treatment of diseases. Living longer, healthier and happier lives are three obvious reasons why men should take the time to schedule an appointment with their physician. A good rule-of-thumb is to schedule your annual exam around your birthday. That way it is easy to remember!
Unfortunately men typically take too many risks with their health. We sometimes drink too much alcohol, smoke, eat a poor diet, have unsafe sex, overwork ourselves and drive dangerously. And if you are like a lot of us, your car gets a tune-up more regularly than you do. But there are several tests that all men need in order to make sure that their “engine” is running smoothly. The more you know the better you will be at preventing disease and illness and, if needed, taking the necessary steps for treatment.
One of the biggest risks to men’s health is our reluctance to seek help or support from a physician. Not knowing which self-tests to perform is also of concern. Poor use of available services and information has a direct impact on the health and wellbeing of men, so seeking out information and building your knowledge is a best practice for men. For example, a man may not schedule nor use their annual exam to have a full-body skin exam, performed to check for pre-cancer or cancerous lesions of the skin. While more women than men develop malignant melanoma, more men than women die from it, likely because of a delayed self-assessment or a simple avoidance of the doctor’s office.
There are a few tests that men ought to regularly perform on themselves in addition to those that should be tested annually by a physician.
Routine physical examination. Even if you don’t fall into the high-risk groups for heart disease, stroke or cancer, a yearly checkup is a good way to isolate little problems before they become big ones.
Blood pressure. Nearly one in three Americans has high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart attack, stroke and kidney failure. Get tested annually or more frequently if your numbers are already high.
Testicular screening. Testicular cancer is most common among white men between the ages of 20 and 34. Regular self-screenings should be performed and any changes in normal appearance or feel definitely warrant a professional test.
STD screening. One in two Americans will have contracted a sexually transmitted disease by age 25. That’s enough motivation to get tested every six months if you’re sexually active.
Testosterone level. As many as 5 million American men have low testosterone levels, which can cause mood swings, inhibit sexual performance and decrease bone strength and hair growth.
Eye exam. Along with testing your vision and screening for glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration, eye exams can also reveal signs of diabetes and high blood pressure.
Skin cancer screening. Skin screenings are an easy way to detect skin cancer in its early stages and also learn about prevention. If something doesn’t seem or feel right on or in your skin, have it checked immediately.
Colon cancer test. Screening sigmoidoscopies (looking for signs of polyps or colon cancer) are recommended every five years for men of average risk for colon cancer, along with yearly stool tests for blood, starting at age 50. If you have a history of colon cancer or polyps in your family, you may need to be screened earlier in life, and more frequently.