I wonder if most men are like my husband when it comes to visiting the doctor. He’ll avoid it at all costs. He could be bleeding out of his eyes and would say, “Oh, it’s nothing, it’ll clear up, I’m fine.”
He hasn’t been to the doctor since 1990 after he twisted his knee while hiking. When it blew up to the size of a bowling ball and he couldn’t walk on it, he surrendered and begrudgingly went to the doctor. Like most men I know, he has no want or need for preventative health. But he has promised to make an appointment for a head to toe physical by the end of the summer (I think this article may have nudged him).
I’ll admit, the only reason I scheduled annual checkups as a young co-ed was so I could get my birth control prescription, and now it’s just become routine. I think if men had to be on the pill, they would gladly suffer the indignity of the stirrups. Of course, there’s a lot more to one’s health and well-being than birth control. Annual health screenings should check weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, immunizations (when is the last time any of us got a tetanus booster?), and, the biggest health concern any of us have: cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, the cancers that most frequently affect men are prostate, colon, skin and lung cancer. Since early detection is the best defense, they recommend that all men get cancer-related checkups as part of their general health visits after age 20. Among recommended cancer screenings for men are the dreaded digital rectal exam, or DRE, vital in the detection of prostate cancer, and the anxiety-inducing colonoscopy, used to detect colon cancer. These screenings, however, are usually only needed after age 40 unless certain risk factors are present, and they are typically needed infrequently.
When I asked Dr. Jim Woodburn, a general surgeon here in Ventura, why these exams are so important, he said, “It’s always good to practice preventative medicine and to examine the prostate early for any complications.” And when asked why men are so afraid of the doc, he offered, “It really just comes down to the factor of embarrassment associated with the exam.”
The truth is, doctors have seen it all. Early prostate cancer typically has no symptoms, so these screening tests are especially important since early detection yields excellent survival rates. Embarrassment vs. survival? Hardly seems like a choice!
So this Father’s Day, along with that new Callaway putter or Swiss Army knife, get Dad an appointment to see the doc. Because nothing says, “I love you” like a colonoscopy.
For a list of cancer screenings for men, go to www.cancer.org.