Men's Health Month: Screenings You Shouldn't Miss
Jun 08, 2020 Cedars-Sinai Staff
Men, on average, are expected to die five years earlier than women. They're more likely to have chronic diseases, and they die at higher rates from cancer and heart disease than women do.
They're also less likely to see a doctor for checkups or preventive care.
"The most important thing to consider is if you have any concerning symptoms or changes to your health right now, call your doctor and set up a phone or video visit. We're here, we're available and we don't want to delay your care."
Now with concerns about COVID-19, men might be even more reluctant to deal with chronic health issues or seek preventive care.
"The most important thing to consider is if you have any concerning symptoms or changes to your health right now, call your doctor and set up a phone or video visit," says Dr. Benjamin Gilmore, a family practice doctor with Cedars-Sinai Medical Group. "We're here, we're available and we don't want to delay your care."
Dr. Gilmore says men—especially those who hadn't seen a doctor in quite some time before coronavirus became the nation's dominant health concern—should speak with their doctors and come up with a game plan for managing their screenings and care.
For those who are at high risk for COVID-19 and prefer to continue physical distancing, they can discuss with their doctors which screenings could be safely delayed and which conditions should be addressed promptly.
Here are the health conditions men should keep on their radar and which symptoms should prompt them to call their doctor.
Most people have a colonoscopy or stool test to screen for colon cancer at age 50 and then repeat the screening every 10 years. However, others might need screening for colon cancer at a younger age based on their personal risk.
African Americans are disproportionately affected by colon cancer, so they might begin screening at age 45. Someone with an immediate family member who had colon cancer before age 60 could also need earlier screening. Those with a prior history of polyps or cancer also require more frequent screening.
Urgent symptoms: Abdominal pain, blood in the stool, unexplained weight loss and change in bowel habits warrant a doctor's visit.
High blood pressure and heart health
"High blood pressure is one of the most important things we check for," Dr. Gilmore says.
If you know you're at risk for high blood pressure—family history, being overweight, previous high blood pressure readings—Dr. Gilmore recommends getting a home blood pressure cuff and checking your blood pressure several times a week. If the readings are consistently high, call your doctor.
He has similar thoughts on high cholesterol. If you haven't been checked in a year or more and have risk factors such as smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes or a prior history of high cholesterol, a phone or video conversation with your doctor would be wise.
Urgent symptoms: Chest pain and shortness of breath are serious symptoms that require a doctor's care.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, hospitals and doctors nationwide have had fewer visits from patients with chronic conditions like diabetes. These conditions still need to be carefully managed, Dr. Gilmore says.
Patients who are diabetic or pre-diabetic are encouraged to see their physician for checkups on their condition.
Urgent symptoms: Call your doctor if you're experiencing numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, increased appetite and thirst, more frequency in urination, increased fatigue, vision problems or slow-healing cuts or sores.
Men who are experiencing despair, hopelessness, loss of pleasure and persistent anxiety are encouraged to reach out for help, Dr. Gilmore says. Cedars-Sinai case workers can connect patients with a therapist or psychiatrist.
"We're all struggling with more anxiety and stress right now, but if you find that you can't enjoy anything anymore, that could mean you're dealing with clinical depression that needs treatment," he says. "This is an area where we can have really great appointments with telemedicine, and there's no reason to delay."
Urgent symptoms: Dr. Gilmore says to reach out immediately if you experience frequent and severe anxiety or thoughts of suicide or self-harm.
Also, routine screenings for cancer, diabetes and heart disease are important steps in protecting lifelong health, Dr. Gilmore says.
"It's a good idea to reach out to us if you're experiencing any symptoms or if you're due for any of these screenings," he says. "A phone or a video visit is a good place to start, but we're also here in the office to care for you."