Ignoring it Won't Cure it

The importance of getting a men’s health check up

Ignoring anything will not make it better. It will almost certainly make it worse though. While men are often reluctant to go to the doctor, there are many reasons why they should.

“A lot of men’s diseases can be treated if there is early detection,” says Dr. Thomas Emerson, M.D., a urologist with WellStar Medical Group. “But it’s important for men to be aware of their bodies, their health, make sure they get regular check-ups and if something does not look or feel right, get it checked right away.”

Many of men’s issues are age-related, he says. For instance, testicular cancer is one of the top killers for men in their 20’s and 30’s, mainly because they don’t do monthly check-ups. “It’s like women and breast cancer. All men should do monthly checkups looking for any bumps or a mass. Testicular cancer doesn’t take a lot of young men but it would take even less with early detection. Before it spreads, it can be treated and even cured.”

As men age, colon cancer should be on their radar screen, especially if there is a family history. A colonoscopy should be done every 10 years starting around age 50. If there is a family history, it is advised that men start at age 40 and have one every five years instead of the usual 10 years. It is the same with bowel cancer, which can also be detected via the faecal occult blood test (FOBT) at the same time a colonoscopy is being done, thus eliminating two potential cancers in one outpatient visit.

Dr. Emerson warns that if any blood is found in urine or in other medical tests, a trip to the urologist is warranted. “Early stage bladder cancer can be treated. When I’m dealing with patients, I tell them there is an 85% chance it is not a malignancy, and for those who do have a malignancy, about 90% of the time the disease is curable. But men shouldn’t delay because if it is allowed to evade the bladder wall, it can be lethal.”

Prostate cancer is another disease that affects men and Dr. Emerson encourages them to get the prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test. He acknowledged the test is somewhat controversial as the government recently changed its stance on what ages a man should start getting the test. Dr. Emerson agreed that perhaps some people were “overtreated” but he also was certain, based on the data, that many lives were also saved.

“In the last 25 years since the advent of the PSA test, there has been a 45 percent decrease in prostate specific mortality rate. That is huge. It is a slow growing disease and you watch it and you’ll probably die from something else waiting for the prostate cancer to grow,” he says. “But if it becomes aggressive you can be dead in six months.”

In addition to these male-specific diseases, it is advised that men, along with women, watch their diets, monitor their cholesterol, be mindful about diabetes and have a bone density test to test for osteoporosis, a spinal deformity or osteopanenia.

“Overall, men should simply be aware of their health and their bodies and not ignore warning signs,” he says.