Quick: when was the last time you had a physical? Like, a full-on exam by a doctor, and not just because you felt sick?
If you’re like most guys, it was probably when your mom (wife, girlfriend, significant other) made the appointment or somehow forced you to do it.
In fact, women take their health care much more seriously than men and are 100 percent more likely to visit the doctor for annual exams and preventative services, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. As a result, guys are putting themselves at greater risk for easily-preventable disorders, like colon cancer and heart disease, which also has them dying—on average—about five years earlier than women.
Need any more incentive? Well, if you’re trying to have a baby with your partner, you’ll want to make sure everything’s in good working order and not affecting your ability to put a bun in the oven.
That makes June—which just happens to be Men’s Health Month—the perfect time to schedule your doctor’s visit and health screenings. Talk about timing!
Let’s talk about Men’s Health Month
In an effort to increase guys’ awareness of their health and encourage them to schedule visits with their physicians and screen for diseases, Men’s Health Network designated June as Men’s Health Month. The nonprofit’s mission is to reach men, boys, and their families where they live, work, play, and pray, with health-awareness and disease-prevention messages and tools, screening programs, educational materials, advocacy opportunities, and patient navigation.
But it turns out, guys aren’t opposed to going to the doctor. In fact, in a recent survey by Men’s Health Network, 90% of men in the U.S. want to take charge of their own health. It’s just a matter of taking that first step and making an appointment with your physician.
But I feel fine…
Here’s the thing about diseases: they’re often pretty sneaky and wait until they’re really settled into your body before announcing themselves, which is why getting screened for things like prostate and colorectal cancers is so important. And, new research is triggering some major names in healthcare to rethink recommendations for screening starting-ages.
After seeing an increase in colorectal cancer in younger people, the American Cancer Society lowered the recommended age for initial screening from 50 to 45. Men aged 55-69 should talk with their doctors about performing a PSA-based screening for prostate cancer. African- American men and those with a family history of the disease should start getting screened as early as 40.
What to expect during your doctor’s exam
Although some of the things your doctor will do are the same things you pretended to do when you played doctor as a kid, the tests provide important information about your health. Your blood pressure and heart rate give quick clues about how your cardiovascular system is working and saying “ah” shows off your throat and tonsils and the quality of your teeth and gums, which also provides information about your overall health. Even your weight illustrates your physical well-being, and obesity not only negatively impacts everything from your heart to your knee- joints, but also your sperm quality and ability to get an erection.
An annual physical exam for men might also include the following, according to WebMD:
- Testicular exam: A doctor can check each testicle for lumps, tenderness, or changes in size. Most men with testicular cancer notice a growth before seeing a doctor. A physical exam of the testicles can also uncover a swelling of varicose veins — known as a varicocele — which can adversely affect sperm production and overall fertility
- Hernia exam: The famous “turn your head and cough” checks for a weakness in the abdominal wall between the intestines and scrotum
- Penis exam: A doctor might notice evidence of sexually transmitted infections such as warts or ulcers on the penis. Sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea and chlamydia are commonly associated with male infertility
- Prostate exam: Inserting a finger in the rectum lets a doctor feel the prostate for its size and any suspicious areas
While you’re at it…
While you’re checking all your other major operating systems this month, it might not be a bad idea to see how your reproductive system is doing. SpermCheck is an over-the-counter kit that lets you test your sperm count quickly and accurately in the comfort of your own home with results in fewer than 10 minutes.
Making a baby not only requires a sperm and an egg, but also healthy parents to make it all come together. Scheduling a visit with your doctor for a physical will help you figure out just how healthy you are and (hopefully!) get you on the road to parenthood!