Screenings and steps men should take to stay healthy

photo by: LMH Health

LMH Health, 325 Maine St., is pictured in May 2021.

When you think of men’s health, what comes to mind?

“You’ll get different answers from different people,” said Dr. Jon Heeb, a urologist with Lawrence Urology Specialists. “Most men would probably say that men’s health is about erections, prostate and testosterone, which are specific to men. But in truth, there’s no way to separate these issues from general and overall health.”

A 2022 Cleveland Clinic survey of 1,000 men showed that many men aren’t proactive about their health. Findings revealed that 55% of those surveyed don’t get regular health screenings. But why?

“There are a number of reasons that men may be reluctant to get care,” said Dr. Joseph Hawkins, a physician at LMH Health Primary Care — Eudora. “They may not see the value in going to the doctor for a checkup if they feel well or might be uncomfortable in a health care setting. Societal and cultural expectations can also be a factor, as some men think going to the doctor means they aren’t tough.”

“It’s important to see your primary care provider each year for a regular checkup,” Hawkins said.

What screenings do men need regularly? How often?

Hawkins said that it’s important to see your primary care provider each year for a regular checkup, to stay up to date on vaccinations and to undergo age-appropriate screenings. The ages to start screening can vary based on individual risk factors, family history and ethnicity, so talk to your doctor to determine the most appropriate time to start. Screenings include:

• Colon cancer screening

• Lung cancer screening if you are a current smoker or have a history of smoking

• Prostate cancer screening

• Skin cancer screening

“Your doctor may recommend additional screenings to check your cholesterol or blood sugars, based on individual risk factors or your family history,” he said.

The Cleveland Clinic survey showed that over half of men are unaware of their complete family medical history, including cancer and urological issues, and about a third have never been screened for prostate, bladder or testicular cancer. This is particularly concerning when data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that cancer is the second-leading cause of death for men.

“Testicular cancer is a type of cancer with one of the highest cure rates, and it’s even more curable if detected and treated early,” Heeb said. “Testicular self-examination is a very simple and effective screening tool for men ages 16-40.”

Another tool used to screen for cancer is a prostate-specific antigen test. These blood tests measure the amount of PSA in your bloodstream and are used to screen for prostate cancer. Talk with your primary care provider to see if a screening is right for you.

“Several professional societies recommend that some men who are at higher risk should have a PSA screening, including men with African American ancestry and those with a family history of prostate cancer,” Heeb said. “The most important health screenings are tailored to your specific situation in consultation with your primary care provider.”

Sexual health concerns

Fans of sports talk radio might notice that a number of commercials make mention of sexual health concerns, including erectile dysfunction and low testosterone levels. While these spots focus on medications to improve sex drive and energy levels, it’s important to take a deeper look at the cause.

“I may see a man who complains of poor erections and they think they just need Viagra or testosterone injections,” Heeb said. “While those remedies may help the immediate problem, there may be serious underlying issues that need to be addressed, including diabetes, hypertension or metabolic syndrome.”

He stressed that it’s also important to talk with your primary care provider if you experience urinary symptoms, including a weak stream or getting up in the middle of the night to urinate. These can be signs of an enlarged prostate and need to be addressed.

“Many illnesses are silent until it’s later in the disease process,” Heeb said. “That’s what makes getting regular screenings so valuable. We’re able to prevent health issues or find them in earlier stages.”

What steps should men take to stay healthy?

Take charge of your health by following a few easy steps.

• Find a primary care provider and commit to regular health screenings.

“It’s important to establish and maintain a relationship with a primary care provider,” Hawkins said. “Having that relationship can help lower barriers by making men feel more comfortable discussing concerns and staying on schedule for health screenings.”

• Get regular exercise and move more.

According to the CDC, adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week and muscle-strengthening activity two days a week.

“Activity is important to support long-term health, as well as remaining independent as far into life as possible,” Hawkins said.

• Eat a healthy diet.

“With each passing year, there’s more and more evidence mounting that strongly suggests that lifestyle choices greatly influence overall health,” Heeb said. “It’s important to get regular exercise, eat a healthy diet and avoid eating excess calories — especially sugars.”

If you aren’t sure where to start, talk with your primary care provider.

• Stay hydrated.

When you’re deciding what to drink, water is often the best choice. It helps restore fluids lost during everyday activities, helps to keep you healthy and to avoid some health conditions, including kidney stones. According to the National Kidney Foundation, one in ten people will have a kidney stone over the course of their lifetime. One of the best ways to avoid this painful condition is to drink plenty of water.

• Quit smoking and alcohol.

If you smoke, quitting is one of the most impactful steps you can make to improve your health and quality of life. Smoking raises the risk of multiple illnesses, including cardiovascular and lung disease. Talk with your primary care provider to see if you can benefit from nicotine gum, patches, inhalers or medication to help you quit.

“We also continue to learn more about the importance of limiting or eliminating alcohol use,” Heeb said. “Long-term alcohol use can cause serious health consequences, including high blood pressure, stroke and liver disease.”

It’s important that if something doesn’t feel right, reach out to your doctor. Many health issues, when treated at an early stage, can be managed or corrected.

“Some men view going to the doctor as a sign of weakness, but it’s actually the opposite,” Heeb said. “There’s also the issue of embarrassment, which is totally understandable when it comes to very personal matters such as erectile dysfunction. It’s important to have a good, long-term relationship with a primary care provider who you trust.”

Hawkins agrees that establishing and maintaining that relationship is key.

“We’re here to help, but we can’t do that if we don’t know what’s going on,” he said. “It may be uncomfortable at times, but open and honest communication is so valuable in helping men achieve and maintain optimal health.”

— Autumn Bishop is the marketing manager and content strategist at LMH Health, which is a sponsor of the Lawrence Journal-World’s health section.


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