Both research and anecdotal evidence show that men avoid seeking health care. In fact, one study shows that among 1,174 men surveyed, 72 percent would rather do household chores, like cleaning the bathroom or mowing the lawn, than go to the doctor.
Nearly one-third of men report not having a primary care physician. But it’s important for men to find a primary care provider whom they can see for an annual check-up and maintain preventive There is strong evidence that individuals with a strong primary care relationship tend to live healthier and longer.
Here’s what Dr. Dausen Harker, a Family Medicine physician at Summit Health, says men should expect from their annual doctor’s visit and how to prepare for them as they age.
Write down your questions so you don’t forget to ask them. Physicians recommend that you should also know your personal history as well as your family history as best you can. Don’t forget to bring your list of medications, too. This is where your provider will individualize your care and assess your risk.
Screenings in Young Men
Boys start testicular screenings at age 15. During the annual exam, the primary care physician looks for five characteristics:
- Different size testicles
- Hard testicles
- Lumps or swelling
- Pain or discomfort in the scrotum
- Abnormalities like pain on urination or blood in the urine
It’s important that young men inspect themselves monthly for these issues, too.
In addition, young men will be screened for noticeable weight gain or loss to check for diabetes, thyroid issues, or anorexia nervosa. Teen boys start to sleep less, eat more poorly, and rely on electronics as they become young men. Common lifestyle choices that impact teens include stress, sleep, nutrition, and exercise.
Finally, teen boys can expect to discuss psychological issues, drug and alcohol use, and sexually active behavior with their primary care provider. Dr. Harker also makes sure all vaccines, especially human papillomavirus (HPV), meningitis, flu, and COVID-19, are up to date.
Screenings for Older Men
Typical screens for older men include “lifestyle risk” factors, which include alcohol misuse, tobacco use, poor diet, and lack of physical activity.
But don’t fear a scolding even if you know you’ve gained some pounds. Primary Care physicians will be happy to refer patients to a Summit Health registered dietician for practical help.
Based on your risk factors and symptoms, your doctor will order tests to screen for certain chronic conditions and concerns. You should discuss the pros and cons of screening for prostate cancer based on your individual risks and preferences.
In addition, colon cancer screening begins at age 45, and there is no reason to stress over an upcoming screening. It’s diagnostic and therapeutic, meaning that physicians can remove polyps and take biopsies to catch cancer early in most cases.
Finally, Dr. Harker will make sure you are up to date on flu, COVID-19, and other inoculations.
If your Primary Care provider does have to issue a diagnosis that requires a specialist, they will have a “full and open discussion” with you. Dr. Harker encourages you to take notes during your visit and send follow-up questions through the doctor-patient portal.
Don’t feel like you must cover it all in one visit, either. All the doctors agreed that taking care of your health isn’t just a one-shot deal. It’s an ongoing and preventative process.