Getting my man to go to the doctor is one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. I'm not even sure why it is such a challenge. He pays for health insurance, so you kind of figure, why not just go? My dad is the exact same way. My mom has the hardest time getting him to go. It doesn't even matter what it's for. A checkup, flu shot or other health issues … these men in our lives just won't go. To get to the bottom of this and learn more about how to help my man stay healthy, I reached out to Christian Gausvik, MD, from The Christ Hospital Physicians - Primary Care.
Why do men avoid the doctor?
I asked Dr. Gausvik why he thought so many men had issues going to the doctor, and he said, "I think men often believe that if they feel well there is no reason to go. To that I would say that we don't wait for the engine to start smoking to change the oil. It is important to find problems before they arise and treat them early. Medicine is always changing and new tests come available, and the best way to stay up to date is to go annually. Things like high blood pressure can sometimes have no symptoms until damage has been caused. I think some men worry about talking about their health or confronting areas of their health that may need work. We all have things to improve on and using your doctor as a coach for that is great! Finding a doctor who you feel you can be open and honest with is important, and it is okay to switch doctors if that is not a good fit."
This totally makes sense to me. I always have felt like men not going to the doctor was fear driven, but maybe it's also that they don't have that kind of connection with their doctor that they are looking for.
What to expect at an annual checkup
When it comes to men's health, it's really important for men to get annual checkups. Dr. Gausvik told me, "Annual checkups are like doing regular maintenance on your car. The goal is prevention, and that should be the focus of an annual wellness visit each year. Even if you are feeling well, it is important to keep up on the age- and gender-based recommendations to stay healthy. It is much more difficult to solve problems and treat illness after it has developed.
The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force provides evidence-based guidelines for your doctor to discuss with you. At an annual wellness visit, you can expect your blood pressure and other vital signs to be checked, your doctor to review health maintenance items that you may need including vaccines, lab work, cancer screenings as well as discuss health diet and lifestyle. Another big component is sexual health and wellness. Lastly, you can expect a basic physical exam to check your heart, lungs, ears, eyes, nose and throat, etc."
Other screenings that men should keep on the radar are:
- Cholesterol blood tests, which may be annual starting around age 25
- Colon cancer screening with a colonoscopy or other test by age 45
- Skin cancer screenings
- Testing for diabetes as an adult starting at age 35
- Screening blood pressure at all ages
- Testing for sexually transmitted infections
- Testing for lung cancer at age 50 for previous smokers
- Mood and depression screenings at all ages
What about the dreaded prostate exam?
And when it comes time for the prostate exam, there's actually good news, according to Dr. Gausvik! He explains, "The idea of the prostate exam is often a big reason a lot of guys worry about going to the doctor, but it's actually not recommended in the primary care setting anymore. Many urologists will still do this test if patients have been referred to them, especially if their PSA blood test for the prostate is elevated.
In the end, prostate cancer screening is complex and includes many factors, so it's a good idea to talk to your doctor about your family history and especially any symptoms by about age 45."
Looking for an expert to help keep your (or your man's) health on track)? Find a primary care provider near you or schedule an appointment online.