Why don’t men visit a doctor as often as women?
That’s a question that health professionals have been pondering for many years.
Women have a relationship with a physician (most often their gynaecologist) once they reach age of menstruation. This continues throughout their reproductive life and into menopause. Breast examination, pap smear, pregnancy and contraception are all issues addressed in this partnership. For the West Indian man, there is almost pride when a man can state – “I have never been to a doctor”.
The West Indian man is socialised to be strong and sees illness as weakness. Are we too macho to be ill? The fear of a diagnosis drives some men from doctors. If I don’t know what is wrong, perhaps it will go away. Men are twice as likely to wait more than two years between doctor visits. Most men can tell you their vehicle’s maintenance schedule but not how often they should see their physician.
This lack of men seeing doctors has been fuelling the drive for the Well Man Visit. These clinics allow men to be more involved in preventative health care and to try identifying potential medical issues and address them early, as opposed to in the late stages of disease. It is aimed at men seeing their doctor when they are well and not only when a medical issue has arisen.
What should you be armed with when you go to your well man check?
1) Your family history
This relates to your family history of non-communicable chronic diseases – cancer, hypertension and diabetes. This can help your physician identify which diseases you may be predisposed to.
2) Your occupational history
Where you work and what you are exposed to may have direct or indirect implications on your health. For example, a construction worker will need to be up to date with his tetanus vaccinations because of the risk involved in his workplace.
3) All your current medications
4) Your past medical history
What your doctor may check or enquire about
1) Your lifestyle, including diet, exercise, alcohol and smoking
2) Weight and height
3) Blood pressure
5) A urine test for diabetes or urine infection
6) Blood test looking for diabetes
7) Hearing and vision test
8) Lung function test
9) An electrocardiogram (ECG) to check for heart problems
10 A chest X-ray, if you’re a heavy smoker
Your doctor may use a combination of the above to calculate your cardiovascular risk. This predicts your risk of events such as heart attacks or strokes.
Additional screening tests your doctor may discuss with you:
1) Bowel cancer screening
This may take the form of a stool test or colonoscopy
The American Cancer Society recommends that people at average risk* of colorectal cancer start regular screening at age 45. This can be done either with a sensitive test that looks for signs of cancer in a person’s stool (a stool-based test), or with an exam that looks at the colon and rectum (a visual exam).
2) Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) screening
AAA screening is offered to men in their 65th year to detect abdominal aortic aneurysms (a dangerous swelling in the aorta).
3) Prostate Cancer screening
This may involve both a blood test (PSA – prostate specific antigen) and digital rectal examination (doctor examining the prostate).
Discuss with your physician if prostate screening is right for you.
It is imperative that men forge a relationship with their physician and take control of their health. The age-old adage of prevention is better than cure still stands the test of time.
Please use the above links in blue for further information on bowel cancer screening, AAA screening and prostate cancer screening.