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What Men Wonder About Health

5 Questions Men Ask Their Physicians

Men – so the stereotype goes – don’t like to ask for directions. But what about when it comes to the course of your health? Public awareness campaigns like No Shave November and Movember are changing the face of men’s health – literally. Each November, these campaigns generate awareness about some of the biggest men’s health issues – prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention, to name a few – by encouraging people to skip shaving and donate the “grooming” money instead to organizations making a difference.

And here’s another cliché: beards symbolize wisdom. So as you or your loved one grows out the hair, there’s no time like the present to brush up on some men’s health concerns. That way, you can talk, hint and even use the features on your smartphone to pay attention to men’s health. 

To help you get smart, Nelson E. Bennett, Jr., MD, a urologist with Northwestern Medical Group, answers commonly asked questions by men.

1. Which routine screenings do I need, and at what age?

There are several screenings essential for good health. From ages 20 to 49, men should have a complete check-up every one to three years. Once you turn 50, your physical should be yearly. A complete check-up should include a physical exam, skin exam, testicular cancer screening, blood pressure check, body mass index check, immunizations and lab testing. Screenings are one of the best ways for your physician to detect your risk factors for the top male health problems. It’s a good time to discuss other changes such as emotional swings, loss of appetite, sleep disturbances or loss of energy that could be red flags for mental health disorders or even suicidal tendencies, two other serious health concerns for men.

2. Should I be screened for prostate cancer?

Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer found in men. That’s why the American Cancer Society recommends the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and digital rectal exam screening for men, starting at age 50. If your first-degree relative (father, brother or son) was diagnosed with prostate cancer, or if you are an African American man, screening should start at age 40. Men with more than one first-degree relative who had prostate cancer at an early age are at even higher risk and should talk to their physician about the best time to start screening.

3. What does it mean if I’m not feeling sexually active?

As you get older, your sexuality may not be as robust, but it doesn’t go away. Talk to your physician about having your testosterone levels checked, or determine if it is erectile dysfunction (ED), a common issue affecting millions of men in the United States. ED can be very stressful, and lead to problems at work, in your relationships and even with your self-confidence.

4. What does it mean if I’m urinating more frequently?

This is also very normal for men. It can be caused by an enlarged prostate or increased consumption of caffeinated drinks. Coffee is actually a diuretic, causing you to pee more often, and older men tend to drink multiple cups throughout the day. Your physician will determine if you need a urinalysis to see if there are any health concerns causing the frequent urination, or if it’s just a factor of age.

5. What if I don’t have any questions?

Well, you probably do – but it’s very normal for men to feel reluctant to open up about health. 

“In our society, it’s not masculine to admit you need help, or something’s wrong, and so, it’s not easy for a man to talk about their medical issues, or even seek out help,” says Dr. Bennett. “When a man realizes he’s not getting younger, and his health issues are not going away, he’s more likely to see his doctor.” 

So think of it like a team effort: schedule (and keep) your yearly check-up and find a physician you’re comfortable with, so you can ask whatever is on your mind. Plan something fun after or prepare your questions in advance to make the most of your time.

“I remind my patients, you’ve worked your whole life to build a business, build a family and be successful,” explains Dr. Bennett. “So let’s work together to prolong your life and make sure you’re here to enjoy all that you’ve worked so hard to build.”

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Nelson E. Bennett Jr, MD
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